With 2.5 million children living with HIV globally (1), America is thriving rapidly in adoption rates for children that are often stigmatized.

In the last five years, the rate of adoptions among HIV-positive kids in the America has reached a several hundred. It started off as trickle, but now it’s picked up pace and more orphans seem to be finding homes.

It’s the kindest gesture shown by many couples, overcoming stigmas and going ahead to make a difference in an orphan’s life.

What are the challenges?

There are many challenges involved in bringing up a child afflicted with HIV-positive. Firstly, you need to cajole the kids into swallowing the bitter medicine a couple of times a day. In the long run, parents need to brace themselves and be prepared to answer the child’s queries as to why those medicines need to be taken in the first place. It is a huge task to not only look after the child’s health but also plan their future.

Parents who have already made a commitment and adopted HIV-positive children are providing online help and support to people who wish to follow in their footsteps. There are many discussion forums on the web. Earlier this year, Bethany Christian Services, America’s largest U.S. adoption agency, launched a comprehensive educational kit about HIV adoptions to assist the increasing number of potential parents take informed decisions.

Parents have the option of informing school officials and neighbors about their child’s medical condition. But under federal and state confidentiality laws, it is mandatory to inform health care providers. Some families are quite open about discussing the situation while others are concerned about the stigma they could face within the community. There are a few parents who keep the whole thing a big secret and will not mention it to the child for a long time because once the status is disclosed, you can’t take it back.

Dr. Jane Aronson, a pediatrician from New York who focuses in the care of children adopted from overseas, states that a child with HIV-positive has a right to keep his/her status private until they are old enough to decide who should be informed.

Personal stories

Margarat Fleming from Chicago has adopted nine children and three of them are HIV-positive first graders. She believes that by adopting children with the ailment gives the little ones a caring, loving and healthy life.

From an early age, Margaret’s three children with HIV were told about their chronic health condition and to take distasteful medicine. In the beginning, Margaret told them their blood was not strong, but now they have understood the condition.

Tim and Annette Franklin of Bridport made a decision to adopt a baby girl, Gedeleine who had HIV-positive. She was living in a Haitian orphanage when the disastrous earthquake struck there in 2010. Being in the adoption pipeline, she was airlifted to Florida eleven days later with other numerous children and taken to her new home.

Gedeleine’s HIV status is not a secret in the family anymore. In fact, the Franklins are quite open about it and discuss how to deal with it.

Gedeleine is now four years old. Her parents, who have four biological children of their own, are happy with Gedeleine being part of the family. They are even planning to adopt another Ethiopian boy who is HIV-positive. He is thirteen-year-old Epherem who is expected to join the Franklin family soon. The Franklins want to have honest communication with Epherem and discuss their status on any potential sexual relationships and to be open with any partner.

Ryan and Stacy Vander Zwaag from Michigan recently adopted 2-year-old daughter, Luisa, who was born in Colombia. They have also started a comprehensive section about HIV on their family blog and wish to remain open about Luisa’s HIV status. They want to raise awareness about HIV and educate others about living with HIV and AIDS.

Positive signs

There are no concrete numbers with regards to HIV-positive adoptions in America. But adoption experts state that most involve children from overseas because American mothers with HIV are generally able to evade transmitting the disease to their children by taking medication during pregnancy.

Strict U.S. immigration policies had restricted limited entry for HIV-positive foreign children to enter the U.S. From January 2010, those restrictions were lifted (2), opening doors for children with HIV to come in as easily as other adoptive kids.

Sources:
1) UN AIDS
2) National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention