Adoption has always been on Ben and I's hearts. We thought YES we would like to adopt someday. During the Spring of 2010 I read an article in a national publication about a woman who adopted a child from Africa and the child was HIV positive. I read the article with great interest. I didn't know anyone with HIV except my good friend Magic Johnson of course. But what ever happened to him anyways, I thought?!? So, after reading the article I thought "WoW- HIV treatment has come a long WAY! How did I miss all this? I worked in healthcare and I had NO clue! Why didn't I know it was such a manageable disease much like diabetes?" We didn't need a "healthy child" like everyone in the world prays for!! We just want to love a child who needs our love and I know our Gospel values don't teach us that a child with HIV would be unlovable or unadoptable! Ben and I talked and said you know WE could do this! So the next 5 months I read, read, read and we prayed, prayed, prayed!!! And this was the path God was leading us down. We signed on with an adoption agency in October 2010 (AAI) that was the 1st US agency to place children with HIV in Ethiopia and was placing them in homes all the time now! I met wonderful families all over the country that had positive children. We met with the knowledgable Pediatirc Infectious Disease Team at University of Louisville that would provide healthcare for our son or daughter. In December we received the file of our amazing son, Abiti. WHY did we receive a referral so quickly after we just signed on with our agency??? Why because children with HIV and other special health care needs are waiting sometimes for years and years on lists waiting to be adopted. Many are NEVER adopted! Yes Abiti was positive but he was completely HEALTHY! And if you have met him you know he is a VERY active and healthy boy!!!
So now that Abiti has been home with us for 6 months, we felt it was very important to help others understand what it means to have HIV and what it doesn't mean.
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT HIV/What it looks like for US:
HIV can NOT be spread through casual/household contact. HIV is not spread through hugging, kissing, shaking hands, sharing toys, sneezing, coughing, sharing food, sharing drinks, bathing, swimming or any other casual way. It has been proven that HIV can only be spread through sexual contact, birth, breastfeeding and blood to blood contact through sharing a needle. HIV has never been contracted in a home or a school!!! HIV is considered a chronic but manageable disease. With treatment, people who are HIV+ can live indefinitely without developing AIDS and can live long and full lives. People who are HIV+ deserve to be treated with love, respect, support and acceptance as all people do.
Abiti takes 3 medicines every day/twice a day. He takes them like a pro!!! Abiti will go to his Infectious Disease doctor/NP every 3 months to have his blood counts checked. Very soon Abiti's virus will ACTUALLY be UNDETECTABLE in his blood!! This doesn't mean he doesn't have the virus it just means the levels are SO low they cannot be detected by a blood test! This is HOW amazing the advance in medical treatment are. We rarely think about Abiti's status at our house. The biggest issue for us during the 1st 6 months regarding HIV was disclosure. We knew once we told someone we couldn't untell them if they had a bad fear reaction. So, being that we lived in a small town in the near south we were just unsure if our entire community could handle it. Therefore we only told our immediate family members and a few close friends. But, for us keeping it a secret was just feeding the stigma. How would others ever know the truth. How would anything every change if we didn't speak up? HIV stigma is all about FEAR! It's because most of us aren't exposed to anyone with the disease therefore we may not have any knowledge about it. Most of us are living with a 1980's knowlege of the disease!!! HOW could we allow that to continue?
So, this is where we are today.....Ben and I want to spread TRUTH. We want to educate and also encourage others to adopt children that are HIV +. We want to support efforts across the world to eliminate HIV/AIDS. We want to support families that are living with the virus, through making sure medications are available to ALL and families are kept together (unlike what happened to Abiti's 1st family b/c of the disease).
We aren't looking to make Abiti a poster child. We won't be talking about HIV around Abiti. His understanding of the disease is still very basic. But, when there is an opportunity to educate, to speak UP, we will!
And we are NOT looking for a pat on the back, "Wow good for you!" The Wiederholt's have been blessed beyond measure with our son...there is no greater reward than that! If you want to respond just let us know you support Abiti and you will also spread the TRUTH!
We hope that if you have any more questions you will email or message us. Please don't allow lack of knowledge to cause fear. Abiti and so many children and adults living with the disease throughout the world deserve our acceptance and love.
Thank you for helping us Spread TRUTH.
Peace - Ben and Jess
If you would like more information on transmission, there is additional information on the Center for Disease Control website at:http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources