Huffington Post recently published an uplifting story: adoption of HIV-positive children is rising in the United States.
While most societies (including the Philippines) are still fearful and biased toward HIV-positive people, there are a growing number of parents in the U.S. opting for so-called “HIV adoptions.”
Most of the children are orphans who would otherwise have died of neglect in their countries of origin. Gedeleine, a Haitian orphan rescued after the January 2010 earthquake, was flown to Florida with a group of other children. Tim and Annette Franklin of Vermont later adopted her. While they have biological children of their own, the Franklins feel their adoption was such a success that they are now considering adopting an HIV-positive Ethiopian boy.
74-year old Margaret Fleming of Chicago, IL, has nine adopted children, three of them HIV-positive. She stated that she “can’t think of a more significant way to a make an impact” than to adopt the children.
While the stigma of HIV still lingers in society, these parents are open about their children’s condition. For Tim Franklin it is nothing to be ashamed of. “By being secretive, we would be contributing to the stigma,” he said. Ryan and Stacy Vander Zwaag even briefed their four biological sons on the condition of their new HIV-positive sister, Luisa, a 2-year old from Colombia.
What makes these parents’ choices more admirable is their commitment to their children’s long-term development. These children will endure a lifetime of medication, and there’s the need to address their sexual development when they mature. Such is the case with the Ethiopian boy the Franklins hope to adopt.
The arrival of 13-year-old Epherem will speed up the timetable for the Franklins to tackle one of the other distinct challenges of HIV adoptions – having frank discussions with the child about the impact of their status on any future sexual relationships, and the need to be honest with any partner.
The mere idea of a child in the family being adopted is still taboo in our country’s conservative sectors. Adopting one with HIV may then seem outlandish. The story makes one yearn for our country to be more open, and considerate of the conditions of our HIV-positive brothers and sisters, no matter how old they are.
While HIV and other sexually transmittable diseases are still global and societal issues that need proper solutions, it is inspiring to see people embrace the idea that people do not embody the diseases they carry. They are still entitled to—and full of—the value of a good life.