“Why would you want a child with HIV?” asked an employee from our daughter’s foster home.
The question took me off guard. After all, she lived with and cared for people with HIV. Without skipping a beat, my husband spoke up, “Because she’s our daughter.”
Three simple words.
She’s our daughter.
Words that echoed in my heart. She meant no harm, we knew this. After all, she explained to us that in China, you cannot have HIV.
Society will not accept you.
HIV+ people are hidden away and must keep their status quiet.
Our daughter was one of those hidden people she spoke of. The woman sighed as she told us their neighbors had no idea they were living next to an apartment building full of HIV+ people. That people were scared of “them”.
Scared? How on earth could anyone be scared, I thought. I looked at my daughter – her soulful dark brown eyes, her soft round cheeks. This is scary?
I was holding the most beautiful gift in my arms, there was nothing scary about her.
The woman asked us what it was like in America, if we were planning on telling people our daughter had HIV, if it was safe to. We explained to her that she is mostly safe there, that it would be her choice to disclose her status, that we believed most people were inherently good and open minded.
The reality is, even in America, HIV is just not widely talked about it. The general public is blissfully unaware of medical advancements in treatment and also misguided in things like the risk of transmission. Our daughter takes three liquid meds each day, once in the morning and again before bed. They keep her viral load so low, even her pediatric infectious disease doctor (PID) has a hard time finding the virus in her body. Her virus is undetectable, she is healthy. In addition to daily meds, we visit with our PID four times a year. That’s it.
Since coming home, we have learned that just a small handful of HIV+ children have been adopted from China, our daughter was likely around number 20. We were informed that because of the stigma that still exists in China, HIV+ children are just not being made paper ready at the same rate as other children with more “adoptable” medical conditions.
What I wouldn’t give to show this beautiful and intriguing country just how “adoptable” my daughter and the countless others are.
When we started this journey, HIV was not on our radar, in fact it wasn’t even an option on our agency’s MCC. At that time, I was absolutely clueless to the epidemic that had swept through China; I had no idea of the little soul who waited for me over there. It wasn’t until our dossier was finally done that the saddest pair of eyes caught my attention on our agency’s waiting child list.
I know this moment is different for everyone, the moment you find your child; but for me I can honestly say it was like coming home. I was so drawn to this tiny girl. She was so familiar to me, I longed to hold her and breathe her in.
There were three little letters listed next to her advocacy name: “HIV”. I knew almost nothing about HIV, but in that moment I knew my daughter had it. We spent the next few weeks educating ourselves on the reality of parenting a child with this condition, and it quickly set in just how manageable it would be.
Once we came home, we easily picked up the learning curve to administering meds and scheduling appointments. We have been home less than a year, and if I’m being completely honest, her virus rarely crosses my mind. We hold her close, we bandage and kiss skinned knees, we paint nails, we dance. There is no risk of transmission, she is treated exactly like our other children. She is just a little girl, plain and simple, who happened to have three little letters attached to her name.
HIV may always be a part of her life, but it in no way defines her.
She is vivacious and intelligent, she is funny and thoughtful. If we let her, she would eat “noo noos” (noodles) for breakfast lunch and dinner. She loves horses and very loudly narrates what is happening during a movie (which of course we find endearing, sorry movie patrons!).
I am so thankful she is home. I can finally breathe her in, and I don’t want to ever exhale.
I would strongly encourage anyone looking over their MCC and feeling overwhelmed to please consider this need. Not only is it the “easiest special need ever”, as another HIV+ adoptive mama so perfectly put it, but there are countless orphans in China whose lives literally depend on it.
So what can you do to help?
• Ask your agency to make sure their partnerships are making HIV+ kids paper ready. Check that your agency has HIV listed on their MCC, if they don’t – make sure they get it added! The more China hears interest, the better the chances are that they will listen.
• If you would like more information on adopting a child with HIV from China, please join our Facebook group.
• Have questions about parenting a child with HIV? Please email me here, I am happy to chat anytime!
Please say yes to HIV. I promise you, it will be the best, most rewarding yes you have ever said.
– guest post by an anonymous mama