Category Archives: About adopting children with HIV

The Faces of HIV in 2013

I was driving to work this morning and passed by a billboard that reads, “I am living with HIV and my brother is standing with me.” As I read it, there was this moment inside of me where I *forgot* that I too am living with people who have HIV. And just as fast, the flash was gone and I remembered my babies.

The truth is, I never thought this would be my life. I mean, come on. MY life? Single and raising not one, but TWO children who have HIV?  Sheez. I must be crazy!  Here’s some more truth:  I never {okay, very rarely} think about it!  My boys, wrestling in full-nelson style on the floor?  Nope. Doesn’t occur to me. Wet beds, runny noses, coughs, vomit?  Never think of HIV.  Leah and Seth sharing drinks, food, baths, and germs?  Not a second thought. My kids engaged in straight-up-mania in the jumping pool?  Zilch. Is there a chance one of them could get hurt and bleed? Um, yea. There’s always that chance! But if they bleed — hear this now — they are not going to “catch” HIV from each other.  Period, full stop.

More truth? Listen up. I don’t think our friends think about it either. {gasp} That’s the thing about the truth. Once you know it, you’re not afraid!!!

I pray that those of you who are considering adoption would consider that HIV is, as our founder Kiel Twietmeyer has said, a “cheater” special need.  It is medically manageable and not scary.  For those children who are in need of a loving home, could God be leading YOU to parent a child with HIV?  Are you willing to step out in faith for this?

 HIV Blog 1

Or this?

 HIV Blog 2

Because this is the face of HIV today:

HIV Blog 3

And this:

 HIV Blog 4

What are you waiting for???

HIV Blog 5

I slept with a girl…..and I didn’t catch HIV.

A guest post, by Jenny Clark

She is four years old. Her name is Leah Grace and she is the daughter of my friend Deb (the one I just went to Africa with). She contracted HIV through no fault of her own. She takes her meds every day like a good girl. Because of those meds, and the love of her family, she is a perfectly healthy normal little girl.

While in Uganda, I wiped her snot, drank after her, shared food with her, helped her in the bathroom….all of the things I would do with my own daughter. About halfway through the week we had some friends come and stay with us for a few nights, which caused us to have to do a little shuffle of the sleeping arrangements. I am no stranger to having kids in my bed and all up in my business while I sleep, so I didn’t think twice when Leah Grace wanted to bunk with me.

But then right before I fell asleep, 1987 came back to haunt me ……for a split second.

What if she has a stomach virus and throws up on me during the night?
Is HIV present in urine? What if she wets the bed?
She got a cut on her nose today…what if it opens up while she is asleep?
  

The truth is sometimes ugly, and I really don’t want to admit it…..especially since I am on staff with Project Hopeful, and our whole objective is to shine light on the facts about HIV and to advocate for children who live with it.

But then I realized, that if I KNOW the facts, and 1987 still crept in to my mind for a split second, how would my friends react in the same situation? How would I have reacted a couple of years ago?

Please friends, for the sake of this sweet girl and so many others like her, educate yourself!

Here are the fact about HIV…..most of them are very straightforward and the only thing you can do with them is read/understand them and help educate others……

….but 2 of these facts are things we can CHANGE…..YOU can change….right now…..today………….can you find them? Will you?

You NEVER have to fear contracting HIV through casual contact with an HIV+ person.
 
HIV has NEVER been transmitted in normal family living conditions. Never.

HIV FACTS

#1: HIV is spread in three main ways: Sexual contact, IV drug use (through the sharing of dirty needles), and mother to infant (through pregnancy, birth or breast feeding).

#2: Medications called ARV’s can mean the difference between life and death. Children who receive treatment are expected to live a normal lifespan.

#3: HIV is not found in sweat, urine, feces, tears, saliva or snot. It is found in blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. While HIV may live for a short while outside of the body, HIV transmission has not been reported as a result of contact with spillages or small traces of blood, semen or other bodily fluids. This is partially because HIV dies quite quickly once exposed to the air, and also because spilled fluids would have to get into a persons bloodstream to infect them.

#4: You don’t have to fear catching HIV through day to day activities with people who are HIV+. You are free to share plates, cups, utensils, food, toilets, towels, linens and other household items without risk of transmission. –American Academy of Family Physicians

#5: Today, HIV is considered a chronic, but manageable disease, much like Type II Diabetes (though Diabetes cannot be transmitted).

#6: If a pregnant mother does not receive medical treatment, there is approximately a 30% chance she will transmit the virus to her child. By treating mother and infant, doctors can reduce that rate to approximately 1%.

#7: A persons HIV+ status is protected medical information. There are US laws in place to protect the privacy of individuals living with the virus. There are also laws to protect citizens from being discriminated against because they have HIV/AIDS should they decide to disclose their HIV status.

#8: Social stigma is perhaps the greatest challenge an HIV+ individual will face.

#9:  A persons viral load is the amount of HIV found in their body. Through the use of HAART treatment it is possible for a patients viral load to become undetectable in laboratory tests. Having an undetectable viral load does not mean a person is cured. It simply means the medications are working to prevent the HIV virus from replicating within the body.

#10: In 2009 the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a study titled “Survey of Americans about HIV/AIDS” which found that levels of knowledge about HIV/AIDS had not increased in the US since 1987.

#11: Families should use universal precautions whether or not someone in the family has HIV. Kids should be taught not to touch anyone’s blood anyway! This enables them to offer assistance to injured persons in a safe and healthy way.

#12: In the West, HIV is now considered a chronic illness rather than the terminal disease it used to be. Sadly, this isn’t the case for those children infected with HIV who are living in resource-poor settings, where 50% of infected and untreated children are not expected to live past the age of two.

#13: Today, 6,500 people will die as a result of AIDS. 6,000 of those people will leave children behind. Those children will join the already 15 million children who have lost parents to this treatable disease. (note: HIV is NOT AIDS. Patients receiving treatment for HIV (with ARV’s) can be expected to live long healthy lives without ever developing AIDS. In the U.S. ARV’s are readily available, however this is not the case in most developing parts of the world)

#14: There is no reason to fear that a mosquito or other insect could transmit HIV from one person to another through HIV-infected blood left on its mouth parts. Studies conducted by the CDC and elsewhere have shown no evidence of HIV transmission from mosquitoes or any other insects–even in areas where there are many cases of AIDS and large populations of mosquitoes. Lack of such outbreaks, despite intense efforts to detect them, supports the conclusion that HIV is not transmitted by insects.

#15: There are no documented cases of HIV being transmitted during participation in sports. The very low risk of transmission during sports participation would involve sports with direct body contact in which bleeding might be expected to occur. If someone is bleeding, their participation in the sport should be interrupted until the wound stops bleeding and is both antiseptically cleaned and securely bandaged. There is no risk of HIV transmission through sports activities where bleeding does not occur.

#16: No incident of food being contaminated with HIV-infected blood or semen has been reported to CDC. Furthermore, CDC has received no reports of HIV infection resulting from eating food, including condiments. HIV does not live long outside the body. Even if small amounts of HIV-infected blood or semen was consumed, exposure to the air, heat from cooking, and stomach acid would destroy the virus. Therefore, there is no risk of contracting HIV from eating food.

#17: Many scientific studies have been conducted to examine all the possible ways that HIV is transmitted. These studies have NOT shown HIV to be transmitted through air, water, insects, or casual contact.

HIV/AIDS Adoption: Teen Selah Twietmeyer Gives Her HIV Adoption Testimony

In this powerful new interview, HIV/AIDS Infected teen Selah Twietmeyer, daughter of Kiel and Carolyn Twietmeyer tells how she was adopted from Ethiopia into her family and talks about disclosure.

“I am not ashamed and not afraid to tell the Truth”, says Selah. She also tells how stigma and misinformation about HIV/AIDS effected her while she was still in Ethiopia, before she knew she had a family who loved her. An incredible testimony!  Please share this message by reposting this link http://youtu.be/sRxDRzZxDbI .

Encouragement for the Single Adoptive Mother: It doesn’t mean parenting alone.

Hi. My name is Deb Steiner and I’m a single mother.

These are the words I never expected to say, but sometimes God’s plans aren’t ours. Most of the time, actually.

I always knew I would adopt. Both of my brothers are adopted and biracial. So from an early age, I dreamed of having a big and multi-cultural family of biological and adopted kids, even requesting the black Sunshine family dolls when I was a kiddo.  But that wasn’t God’s plan for me, at least not yet.Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Instead, I went to law school, zipped off into a career as a Federal Prosecutor and then became a lawyer with Big Law. While I’ve dated, some might say “a lot”, God hasn’t brought my husband. Yet. In my early thirties, my mentor and friend encouraged me to adopt; I called her crazy. The thought couldn’t have been further from my mind. I wanted children – sometimes desperately – but I didn’t think it made sense for me to adopt since I was single. Until I turned, well, about 36. Then God started speaking to me. Loudly. It was a bit of a scary time for me and rather than breathe a word to anyone (family included) I bought books and started reading. I read everything I could find about single adoption. There are some good, pragmatic, books, but nothing in the Christian literature section. (Hmm. I wonder who will resolve that 😉 )

I struggled with questions about whether God would want me to proceed in such a radical way. I wondered if my friends would think I was nuts. I asked myself how I would manage “alone.” I wondered if any man would pick me after doing something so “stupid.” In short, I asked myself every question under the sun. So when I let my family in on it (Christmas 2006) I was ready for all of their questions. They couldn’t ask me anything I hadn’t already asked myself. Even their hard questions…. been there.

So in 2007, I signed up for one of the required adoption education classes. You know, just to see how it would feel. Ha! By the end of March I had applied to adopt and by mid-summer, I was completely approved. My agency (Adoption Link in Oak Park, Illinois) started showing my profile to birth moms in August and just a short month later, Seth’s birth mom chose ME.

I want to press pause here because I think a common concern of singles is that, in the face of couples, why would a birth mom choose a single prospective mom? I don’t have the answer, but we cannot know the minds of anyone else, including pregnant mothers. Our birth mother (a young, African-American girl) was presented with married Caucasian couples, married African-American couples, and ME. She was adamant from the beginning that she wanted me. Her mom even challenged her and still, she wanted me. Anything is possible!

Six weeks after I was chosen, Seth was born. A complete and total blessing. It wasn’t until a couple of months later that I knew Seth had issues — largely relating to his eyes. As it turns out, he has hypo-plastic optic nerves, nystagmus, strabismus, and a host of global developmental delays. This from my perfect no-drugs, no-alcohol, prenatal care from the get-go son. God certainly had different plans for me! Better plans….

And three and a half years later, God did it again. In the midst of pursuing a second domestic adoption, I met Leah on a mission trip to Uganda. And God spoke. “She is your daughter,” He said. Um, impossible. She’s HIV positive and I don’t “do” HIV positive. In fact, I had said as much. Repeatedly. Adamantly. Out loud. Even in the face of already having a special needs child, I said ,”No.” And God said, “Too bad.” Leah came home in November 2010 at two years old. A second blessing to this single mama.

I’m here to tell you single folks that you can do this too. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns (is any parenting?) but it’s so worth it. We have our share of hard days and pray for our husband/daddy all.the.time. But I don’t for one second regret the decision I made — with God’s council — to walk this road. In fact, I wish I had done it a lot younger! I don’t know what God has for us. Maybe I’ll be single forever. Or maybe not. Either way our family is God-made and we spend our days living for Him, just like our married friends.

Practically speaking, I’d encourage you not to think about doing it “alone.” I certainly don’t do it alone. I work full-time. My kids have teachers and Sunday school teachers and nannies and baby-sitters and grandparents and friends. It takes a village for sure and we have one. So do you. Just spend some time identifying who they are and go for it! Children around the world and here at home need YOU. And trust me when I tell you, you need them too. 😉

Last, you are not alone. There are increasing numbers of us to support you, pray for you and who GET IT. Here are just a few single moms…. all with different life journeys and all parenting alone: Me (www.chosen-1s.com); Lisa Bushman (http://little-did-i-know.blogspot.com/); Meredith Bowen  (on Facebook); Jenny Mo (http://mojennymo.blogspot.com); and Tracy Siler (www.silerhappenings.blogspot.com) (Names/blogs used with permission)

Deb Steiner is on the staff of Project HOPEFUL as our Single Parent Liaison. She is going on a mission trip to Uganda this summer. Follow her journey at http://andsoweserve.blogspot.com/

Truth Pandemic Video Now with Spanish Subtitles

Project HOPEFUL is thrilled to announce the addition of the Truth Pandemic video with Spanish subtitles, just one of several languages that we will be making our video available in. Please share this! It has the potential to reach so many more who need to hear the TRUTH!

Truth Pandemic {Spanish Subtitles}

Orphan Advocacy takes Project HOPEFUL to the White House

We have so much to share with you about our recent trip to Australia to take part in Together for Adoption Australia 2011, and that post will be coming very soon.

But first we want to share with you one very exciting thing that happened while Carolyn was in Australia: she received an invitation to participate in The White House National Adoption Event, Nov 28. And not only to attend, but to PARTICIPATE and present on “the unique challenges facing orphans with HIV/AIDS, and her experience as an adoptive mother” on their International Adoption panel.

It is such an honor  to have this opportunity to advocate for children on a national level. Please be in prayer for Carolyn this Monday and for her preparation and travel this weekend for this very important event.

Disclosure

Here is a very thoughtful post about how one family made a very personal choice about the issue of disclosure. Lyndsay Boulton is our State Associate for California and the mother of five children, one of whom is HIV+.  You can also find this post at the Boulton Family Blog.

DIS·CLOSE

    [dih-sklohz] verb, -closed, -clos·ing, noun
verb (used with object)
1.to make known; reveal or uncover: to disclose a secret.

2.to cause to appear; allow to be seen; lay open to view: Inspring the violets disclose their fragrant petals.

Disclosure is a very personal decision. We prayed and sought God, and other wise counsel before making our decision. We do not believe that disclosure is the right answer for every family.

Unfortunately there are people, specifically in the Church, that believe that disclosing HIV status is an act of selfishness, as if those who choose this path are trying to make themselves out to be martyrs. Would people say that about someone who disclosed Cancer, or Diabetes, or ADD or Autism? What special needs are OK to talk about, and which ones are unacceptable? And why? Why is HIV in a different category?

It is in a different category because of ignorance and shame.

This is very disheartening.  I believe it is our job, as the Church, to be the LIGHT to the world, to allow ourselves to be seen, to reveal or uncover darkness and discrimination. I can’t imagine Jesus telling me to cover up or lie about my child’s condition because of other peoples ignorance or cruelty. I don’t remember Jesus or the Apostles telling His followers to cover up or lie so that they wouldn’t have to deal with peoples cruelty or trials. In fact when I read the Bible I read just the opposite. (James 1:2)

Is this the easiest road to take? Definitely not! Am I putting my child at risk of being ridiculed or ostracized- probably. But all of my children are at risk of that because their lives look a lot different than the rest of the world! Being adopted can also set our daughter up for ridicule, and so can having a different color of skin, but I can’t protect her from that. Should we have decided not to adopt an African child because she might be ridiculed? Was she better off living in an orphanage without a family? I’m sure some people think so, but not us! Not the Church!

We, as the Bride of Christ have already failed the HIV/AIDS community. We shamed them into hiding, labeling their disease as a punishment for their ‘sin’. In our ignorance and fear we turned them into the ‘lepers’ of our generation. And guess what? If Jesus were here today who would He be hanging with? And so if my life is supposed to look like His, than do I really have another choice?
It is our job to be the ones to turn this around. To stand up for the HIV/AIDS community and say we love you! We love you with the love of Christ.

Because we have decided to be honest with our daughter and her condition, and have decided to educate others around us instead of hiding in shame I have had some amazing opportunities to spread TRUTH and LIGHT.

A few weeks ago I had a mother of one of my sons friends call me. Her son wanted to come over to our house and play. She knew about our adoption and knew that our daughter was HIV+. She wanted to know what that meant for her son, if he were to come over and play in our home. She was very gracious and was a little embarrassed about her lack of knowledge. I was SO thankful that she called. I was able to answer all of her questions and ease her fears. I was able to direct her to more information if she wanted to read further. I hung up the phone and just bawled and thanked God for that opportunity! Her son and mine have become great friends, and she is in love with our daughter! She appreciated how open and honest we were, allowing her to ask the questions.

Yesterday I received another phone call from a family member who lives in another state. One of his coworkers had found out earlier this week that her son is HIV+. He called me so that I could talk to her and answer her questions. She was devastated. She thought her son was going to die. I was able to share with her the facts. She was so grateful. I was able to encourage her, and now she can encourage her son.I would not have had either of these conversations if we had chosen a different route.

I am fully aware that there will be days where this might feel more like a burden than freedom, but that is when I will give it to God, because it is His to carry, not mine.As Christians, can’t we just support each other in the ways that we hear and respond to the call of God in our lives?

1 Corinthians 10:29-33
For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
31So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

If you have had the privilege of meeting my daughter you would know that she is a little world changer.
You can see it in her eyes.
She is something special.
She is such a gift to our family.