Monday, February 14, 2011

Unconditional Love & HIV

1 John 4:18
"Perfect love drives out fear."



Our beautiful boys are both HIV+.
While only an estimated 20%-30% of un-medicated HIV+ mothers still manage to pass on the virus to to their children (the specific statistic depends on your source), our children fell into that unlucky minority.

The decision to publicly disclose their status has been a difficult one, and while a great number of parents choose to keep an HIV status private (with very good reason), we ultimately decided that full disclosure was in the best interest of our family.

HIV carries a huge stigma. It's a stigma that we want our kids to be sheltered from as much as possible, so while we don't plan on carrying a huge "HIV" sign above their heads and announcing it everywhere we go, we also won't be treating it as a closely guarded secret for fear that they'd feel ashamed.

Also, to be frank... we have a lot of well-meaning friends with loose lips. The "HIV secret" would have gotten out anyway, so we'd rather it be on our terms. :-)

There are many misconceptions about the virus, and we hope that you'll take a few moments to help us dispel them.

We are adding an "HIV tab" to the top of our blog, so please take a moment to check it out and learn more about how the virus can be spread, and (more importantly) how it CANNOT.

The three ways it is spread are through:
1. Unprotected sexual contact
2. Sharing contaminated needles
3. Mother-to-infant, through birth (in a small percentage of births, and only if the mother is not medicated) and breastfeeding

...so unless you plan on participating in one of the above activities with them, you're at no risk. :-)

So far, our friends and family have been overwhelmingly supportive. However, disclosing has still been, at times, a very scary experience for me.

While recently disclosing to one of my friends (who has a few children of her own, similar in age to ours), she summed up her feelings by admitting that she didn't know much about the virus, but that she knew I would never put her children at risk, so she was supportive.

I can only hope that everyone feels the same. These children are farrrrrr too precious and in need of acceptance and love to ever be feared or rejected.

If these HIV+ children have regular access to Anti Retro Virals (ARVs) they are expected to have a long, healthy life... of AVERAGE length.
They can lead normal lives, and even have children of their own one day, born free from the virus!

There has not been a single case of HIV being transmitted in a normal family OR school environment. Though both positive for the virus, their immune systems are as strong as any other children. Aside from taking ARVs daily and visiting a specialist a few times a year for monitoring, they will need to be treated no differently than any other children.

The following video was put together by Project Hopeful, which is an organization that helps to educate, inform, and support families hoping to adopt children with HIV. It's a short and VERY cute and entertaining video, so please take a minute to watch it!








A fellow blogger I follow recently posted a very informational entry about HIV. I encourage you to check it out, if you have time.


Also, please browse around www.projecthopeful.org if you have a few moments. It's full of hope, inspiration, and GREAT information.



"Don't spend time worrying about weird and obscure ways of transmitting the virus. The simple fact is that if no one shared needles and everyone wore condoms, the HIV epidemic would disappear."
- Dr. Joel Gallant, Professor of Medicine at John Hopkins School of Medicine and Infectious Disease Specialist


Happy LOVE Day!





10 comments:

  1. Seriously, BEST VALENTINES DAY post EVER!!!!

    p.s. Although I know you've mentioned (via blog) that you are going to home school I want you to know that if you want you can use me as a resource about anything related to Special Education. I got my minor in Sped and rehab and now have been workin in the SpEd setting for three years. You can get services from Day one when your super cute boys arrive to you an often times ELL kids can have services under I.D.E.A. for the first few years. Anyway, just thought you should know if you want an insiders look into SpEd resources. I know a lot of times "people" in the system won't tell you everything.

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  2. This is GREAT information, Katrina! It's amazing to me how much misinformation there is about HIV. I wish your entire family the best : )

    Blessings

    Melissa

    journeytoonemore.blogspot.com

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  3. You both are going to be great parents! Congrats on the adoption! I have my BA in early childhood education, and although you may already know this, I wanted to tell you anyways in case you didn't. Homeschooling children can limit a childs socialization and impact them severely. Make sure to include many extracurricular activities and time for your boys to socialize with other children their age. Congrats on becoming parents! I wish you the best.

    Ryan

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  4. Awesome information! I think you're amazing (always have)!!! You're going to be so blessed with these two little boys! And they will be blessed because of you and Donald!

    Erika

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  5. When we started our adoption journey this go around, we were hoping to adopt a little boy with HIV. He found a different family (at least he has a family!) and our boys are both "completely healthy". Still, I know the decision to be honest and fight the stigma is a tough one and I think it's awesome you're being honest and open with it. Go you!

    You know what might surprise you though? The first time someone has a negative reaction, you might be amazed at the strong, protective, parental reaction you have. I know I was!

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  6. Katrina,
    Thank you so much for sharing! I saw something on Reece's Rainbow about HIV and I was curious if your boys had it, but was afraid to ask because I didn't want to be too snoopy. I too, am not very aware of how the virus works, but I'm so happy to hear that your boys will have healthy, long lives! That's wonderful! I can't wait to hear all about your trip to pick up these adorable boys! And I think the oldest boy definitely looks like an Eli. :)

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  7. Yay! Preach it sister. :)
    Deb

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  8. Hi there...I found something with one of your little ones in it and wanted to pass it on to you..you can email me at kimandeli16@gmail.com

    (we are adopting also!)

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  9. Thanks to all of you for your encouragement. Donald has very thick skin about it all, but I... do not, so all the support is VERY much appreciated.
    I know that most of the fearful responses we'll receive are going to be from well-meaning parents who only want to protect their children as I do, so we're trying to find the balance between educating, ignoring, and being compassionate when people are unkind.

    And yes, we do plan on homeschooling, at least for the first year (Eli will be old enough for Kindergarten in the fall). We'll be reevaluating every few months based upon their needs though, so thank you Chelsey, and I will definitely be calling you up without hesitation! :-)
    After spending their formative years in an institutional setting, I'd like them to be home with mommy in a family environment for as long as possible to foster attachment and facilitate in healing their jacked up brain chemistry. Not everyone's lucky enough to stay home with their kids, but we're grateful I can right now.


    Again... your kindness means a LOT to our family right now! Thank you, everyone!

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  10. Great information! Oh and I love the names you chose for your boys.

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