Category Archives: Truth Pandemic

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 .

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}

Together for Adoption Australia 2011

Project HOPEFUL is two short weeks from bringing a message of life and hope for orphans to the continent of Australia. Dan Cruver has written an excellent article about why we are partnering for this important event at the Together for Adoption Blog.

This is a crucial message that Australia needs to hear. Please join us in prayer that the Truth Pandemic would have a monumental impact on the people of Australia.  Please also pray that all of the funds that we need in order to send our volunteer staff members would be donated in time for us to leave.  If He has led you to give to this important event, please go to http://www.projecthopeful.org/donate , choose the General Fund and put NOVEMBER in the comments box.  Thank you for your prayers and support!

Australia 2011 from Tamara Loveing on Vimeo.

Project HOPEFUL materials now available in French

Project HOPEFUL is pleased to announce that one of our brochures is now available in French. We are really excited about the doors that will open for spreading the truth about adopting children with HIV/AIDS with the use of this pamphlet.

We would like to give public thanks to Rachele DeMeo for her labors on behalf of Project HOPEFUL of this translation work. Rachele DeMeo was born in Nîmes, France (as P.K. (Pastor’s Kid) and M.K (Missionary’s Kid)), where she spent the first nineteen years of her life, and graduated with a French Baccalaureate. After a year of College, she moved to Maryland to complete a B.A. in Education, intern for a Congressman and teach. She moved to California for a teaching job and furthered her education graduating with a M.A. Additionally she pursued a Masters in Education specializing in Teaching and Learning. She’s been translating since 1998. She’s also had experience teaching K-2, 6-12 and College-level/Adults. She specializes in teaching French, English and Italian.

She currently teaches French at MiraCosta College and is a freelance translator. She lives with her husband, 9-month old baby, 2 dogs and 3 cats in Oceanside, CA.

Thank you, Rachele!

If you would like to download this brochure, you may do so HERE .

Meet-Up Monday: Meet Laci Zacapu, State Associate for Washington

Welcome to this week’s Meet-Up Monday post.  This week we head to the Pacific Northwest to meet Laci, our State Associate for Washington.  Be sure to leave a comment and say hello!

PH: Laci, would you please tell us how you first heard about Project HOPEFUL?
LZ:
I met Carolyn Twietmyer in Ethiopia while we were there for our first adoption. Selah was with her and was so sick and I just remember being worried she wouldn’t be able to make it home. I started following Carolyn’s blog when I got back to the states so I could check on Selah’s health and that’s where I learned about Project HOPEFUL.

PH: How did you develop an interest in HIV advocacy?
LZ:
I became interested in HIV advocacy after bringing my daughter who’s HIV+ home and being treated very badly when a group of people found out about it. I realized that when people don’t know the TRUTH about HIV, they will fear it and where there is fear sometimes there is a lot of anger. I wanted to join Project HOPEFUL in spreading the TRUTH.

PH: Could you share with us your own adoption story?
LZ: 
In July of 2008 my husband and I went to Ethiopia to pick up our daughter who was 9 at the time. While there, we met her family including her older biological sister who was HIV +. I hate to say it, but I was actually relieved her sister was not available for adoption then because I just “knew” there was no way I’d ever adopt a child who was +. I thought I’d be putting my other children and myself in danger.
After about a year of being home though, I just couldn’t get her off my mind. I’d followed Carolyn’s blog and seen how healthy Selah was now that she’d been home and was receiving lots of love and good medical care. And I thought just maybe adopting a child with HIV might not be such a dangerous thing after all.

We prayed and God made it clear that this precious girl whom I’d feared because of her HIV was my daughter and we needed to bring her home. Of course we searched the internet and spoke with doctors and other adoptive parents and the more we found out about HIV the less of an issue it became. My daughter has been home a little over a year now and is happy, healthy and thriving. I cannot imagine our family without her.

PH: What about Project HOPEFUL are you the most passionate about?
LZ: 
My daughter told me after a few months of being home that after we brought her sister home to America she was very sick in Ethiopia. She wondered why we hadn’t gone back for her. It was so hard to look into my daughter’s eyes and admit that fear of HIV had been the reason she was sick and alone for so long.
I am passionate about Project HOPEFUL and the work they do because I don’t want any child to suffer through life sick and without a family soley because of people’s ignorance about HIV. I love being a part of spreading the TRUTH in love so that children like my daughter can be brought into families where they too can thrive.

PH: What do you want your fellow states-people to know about HIV adoption?
LZ:
That there is no reason why children who happen to be HIV+ should be waiting for a family just because of their status. That HIV is absolutely NOT easily spread or a threat to anyone living in the same house under normal circumstances. And that once you’re child is home, the HIV becomes such a non issue you’ll wonder why you ever worried about it in the first place!

Thank you, Laci! We love your passion for the TRUTH!
If you’d like to contact Laci about events in Washington, you can contact her at hopefulinWA@gmail.com .  To find an associate in your state, visit http://www.projecthopeful.org/state-association .

Meet-Up Monday: Meet our Maine State Associate, Shannon Wheeler

Today we’d like to begin introducing you to our State Associates. State Associations exist to promote the Project HOPEFUL vision: EDUCATING, ENCOURAGING and ENABLING families adopting children with HIV/AIDS within the individual states. Project HOPEFUL is looking for people to partner with to help us bring our educational workshops to your state. Associates will help plan events, develop relationships with local HIV/AIDS medical specialists, create social networks for local advocates and adoptive families, and more! If you would like to contact your State Associate or would like to find out how to begin a State Association in your state, please contact Deanna Jones Falchook, National Associate Director at Deanna@projecthopeful.org.

Today’s featured State: Maine
State Associate: Shannon Wheeler

PH: Hi Shannon! Thank you for taking part in our interview today. Let’s start by having you tell us how you first hear about Project HOPEFUL.

SW: The first time I heard about Project HOPEFUL was when a Facebook friend posted a news clip with Carolyn Twietmeyer’s family being featured. I was floored. I had literally no idea of the hope that exists for kids living with HIV. I was among the many Americans who still thought HIV/AIDS was a certain death sentence. I sat and cried at my kitchen counter, hearing of this hope and watching this family grow and seeing the transformation of her daughter from a sick and suffering orphan to a joyful, thriving, playful daughter. It was unbelievable. I had to see this again. I had to show my husband. I had to re-post it on Facebook. And I had to get involved!

PH: How did you develop an interest in HIV adoption/advocacy?

SW: Adoption and orphan care advocacy is what lights up my heart. As I’ve learned more about what God’s Word says about His heart for the orphan, and as I continue to grow in my relationship with Jesus, I can’t help but be ignited in my spirit with the love of Christ for these little ones. Until I heard of Project HOPEFUL, I had no idea there was such a thing as HIV adoption or ways to support little ones living with HIV in other countries. Watching for several years as my husband and I have walked through failed adoption processses of healthy children, I’ve noticed that there are so many stigmas attached to adoption in general, along lines of race, age, gender… and knowing the heart of our Savior for “the least of these,” I see a real need to advocate for those children in our world who are the ones our society says are “least,” and the amount of fear, stigma and honest ignorance of the facts surrounding HIV make this issue one that cannot be ignored. There are literally too many lives at stake. I know not all families are called to adopt, and among those who are, not all will be called to adopt a child living with HIV. But as a Christian, I am compelled by the love of Christ and the ransom paid for my own adoption into the family of God to do everything I can to obey what the Bible tells me is my responsibility: to look after orphans in their distress (James 1:27). I love our Lord’s heart for these children, for adoption, for calling those things that are not as though they are, for making families according to His design and not according only to our biology, for redeeming those years that have been lost, for healing wounded places, for grace and for His faithfulness every single time to remain true to His promise to be the Defender of the fatherless, to “place the lonely in families,” and to provide for our needs as we obey His call to step out in this area of our lives.

PH: Tell us about your own adoption story.

SW: (aka our not-yet-having-adopted story) My husband and I first began a journey toward adoption in 2006. We did a homestudy and spent a year waiting on a baby, only to get a call for a placement and then see the doors be closed by the Lord. It was our first taste of how fraught with emotion the world of adoption is. We actually conceived our littlest child the next month, so we had the privilege of immediately seeing what the Lord had planned. That isn’t always how the Lord works in our lives, though. Sometimes the waiting is long and the answers don’t come quickly. That was the story with a boy we now call our heart-son who lives in Eastern Europe and has aged-out of adoption eligibility but who we consider family and look forward to traveling next month to meet in person! In addition to spending time with him at the Christian center where he is living, we are working in cooperation with a Project HOPEFUL FIG endeavor to learn more about how Project HOPEFUL can come alongside older orphans who have aged-out and yet still need the safety, support and accountability offered by loving adults in order to complete trade school and make a safe transition into adulthood. We will also be working to develop relationships with directors of any orphanages in the area of the country we will be in who may not be in contact with Project HOPEFUL yet in order to help advocate for the children living with HIV in those facilities. Please pray for us, that the Lord will open doors of opportunity and guide our steps while we are overseas, and that He will show Himself strong on behalf of these children, as He promises in His Word.

PH: What are your favorite aspects of Project HOPEFUL’s mission?

SW: I love that Project HOPEFUL has many facets. I love the education piece, because I know that is something I have benefited from greatly and still have so much to learn. I think knowledge and education are tremendously powerful tools in tearing down walls of fear. As Americans, living in a country with access to wonderful medicine, wonderful education, and free access to God’s Word, we really have no excuse not to be educated about HIV/AIDS, and yet I am humbled and convicted that this is something up until recently I have made no effort to learn more about. I literally stopped pursuing knowledge of HIV/AIDS in the 80’s, so I really love the Truth Pandemic video, because I was SO stuck in the 80’s!

PH: What about working with Project HOPEFUL are you the most passionate about?

SW: I’m very passionate about the FIG project I’m currently honored to be working on in Eastern Europe. In August, my husband and I will be traveling to Ukraine, and we’ll be staying for a week at a wonderful Christian children’s center, where we have spent the past 20 months loving a boy who lives there as a child of our hearts, and we can’t wait to meet him and the staff of wonderful people who work there. In addition to this, we’re working on behalf of Project HOPEFUL to examine, with the input of those living in Ukraine, working with orphans, exactly how best Project HOPEFUL can come alongside those orphans who are aging-out of orphanages and out of eligibility for adoption, yet who desperately need a support system of loving, Christian adults to provide them with help as they go to trade school and transition to adulthood. I’m very passionate about this project, specifically because my family is incredibly blessed to see the powerfully positive impact such programs have on kids, like our “heart son.” So we’re working with FIG to research, network and strategize about how Project HOPEFUL can be a part of offering this type of support to older children. The statistics about what happens to children who age out are devastating, and this is a crisis that needs attention and action, and I love the proactive stance Project HOPEFUL takes in being willing to step into the places of great need and start making prayerful steps toward addressing those needs. Please be praying for us as we are gearing up for this trip!

Another thing I really love about Project HOPEFUL is the network of support offered to adoptive families on an ongoing basis. There is a lot of support needed for any family after adoption, and especially if a family is not only facing the addition of a new child but also needing to learn about healthcare for a child with HIV, and there is a lot of emotional support needed as families navigate the waters of disclosure and responses from community members and even churches and family members who may not have all the information needed about HIV and may be operating out of fear. We need to gather around families with support, prayer, encouragement and love, and I really appreciate the ongoing sense of support and community Project HOPEFUL creates through the State Associations.

PH: What do you want your fellow Mainers to know about HIV adoption?

SW: Although not all families are called to adopt a child living with HIV, we all are part of communities where there are people who are living with HIV, and even in my small-town Maine community there are families I have not met but have heard of who are parenting adopted children living with HIV, and I want to be part of a support network that operates out of love and knowledge and compassion, offering friendship and a sense of community to these families. I think much of Maine is very insulated and believes that there are a lot of issues – I believe HIV is probably one of them – that don’t impact us “here,” when in fact that isn’t the case. I love my state and my fellow Mainers, and I want to facilitate education that can help dispel fears and stigmas that would prevent any family or any child from feeling they carry a stigma or any shame. I want my fellow states-people to know that there are real children and real families living in our communities who are living with HIV and also living with HOPE. I am amazed at what I’m learning about the treatment of HIV and the hope and health and long life that is possible due to what is available medically for children living with HIV.

PH: Do you have any events coming up in Maine?

SW: The Maine Association is still in its starting stage, so there are not yet State events to announce, but I would love to keep you all up to date on the FIG project in Ukraine as it’s unfolding! I would love to have any families or individuals feel welcome to contact me at hopefulmaine@gmail.com if they are interested in getting in touch about the Maine Association.

PH: Thank you so much, Shannon! We’ve enjoyed getting to know you better and look forward to seeing the State Association in Maine grow in the years to come.