As members of the gay community, we are perhaps more keenly aware than the general population of the devastation caused by the AIDS virus. Those of us who were part of the club scene in the 1980s don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the friends we lost to this terrible disease. Thanks to medical advances and education, the spread of HIV has slowed significantly and infection with the virus is no longer considered a death sentence, at least not here in the United States. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for less developed countries, including some African nations in particular, where rampant infection continues to kill thousands every year, leaving a large number of HIV+ orphans in need of homes.
If you are considering adopting an HIV+ child, there are several agencies that can help you, including Children of All Nations, whose website contains information about HIV and AIDS, and includes the following list of answers to some of the questions you might want to investigate as part of your research:
1) Will adopting a child with HIV/AIDS put my other family members at risk?
Numerous studies have shown that family members do not contract HIV/AIDS through ordinary household activities. You cannot get HIV from sharing food and drinks or using the same bed or toilet as an HIV-positive person. You also can’t contract it from changing diapers, hugging, kissing, or from bathing or swimming with someone who’s infected with the virus.
2) How is the virus spread?
HIV is spread by direct intimate contact with HIV-infected body fluids, such as blood, vaginal secretions, semen, or breast milk.
3) How should blood spills be handled?
Spilt blood should be soaked up with absorbent material, direct skin contact with the blood being avoided. Blood spills can be cleaned up using detergent-disinfectant formulations — chemical germicides. In addition to these, a fresh solution of household bleach and water is an inexpensive and effective germicide and will kill the HIV virus when used properly.
4) Will a family’s existing insurance policy cover an adopted HIV/AIDS-exposed child?
It is a legal requirement that all adopted children be added to group insurance plans without pre-existing condition clauses in all 50 states! And many states also require that private insurance plans do the same. In addition, all 50 states have funding programs that will assist with the costs of HIV treatment within specified income guidelines.
5) What information about an HIV/AIDS-infected child needs to be disclosed?
Federal and state confidentiality laws protect disclosure of an individual’s HIV status. It is against the law to share a person’s HIV status without his/her permission. There are also many anti-discrimination laws that protect people living with HIV. A child’s HIV status should be disclosed to health care providers to ensure the best care.
6) Is it true that many infants who test HIV positive at birth convert to negative within the first year or so?
Yes. Statistics show that 75% to 80% of children who test HIV-positive at birth only have the birth mother’s antibodies and not the virus itself. A sophisticated blood test called the PCR can now determine with a high degree of accuracy by four months of age whether an infant is antibody or antigen positive.
While the addition of a special needs child to your family will always bring with it a number of challenges, those who have chosen this path to building a family say that the rewards far outweigh any downside.
Please see the following websites for further information about adopting an HIV+ child:
By Chris McNamee