Before we begin, please answer the following questions:
- Can you get HIV from mosquitos?
- Are you wearing neon Ray Ban sunglasses?
- Can you get HIV from kissing on the lips?
- Do you have on stirrup pants?
- Can you get HIV from swimming or bathing with someone?
- Do you currently have the theme song to the television show ALF in your head?
- Does everyone with HIV get AIDS and die?
- Is your hairstyle of choice a mullet?
- Are people with HIV sick all the time?
- Is Ronald Reagan the current president?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you need to step out of the 1980’s and join us here in the 21st century where people stare at their tiny cell phones instead of talking to each other. Seriously, most people’s knowledge of HIV is SERIOUSLY outdated. Take a minute to read through this and EDUCATE yo’self. (All info is either comes from the sites at the bottom of this page or Dr. Garcia, a pediatric infectious disease doctor at Children’s Medical Center).
1. What the heck is HIV?
Well, we had that exact same question. I asked the kind doctor to break it down for me and this is what she explained:
You mean you need more explanation? HIV is a virus (a Human Immuno-deficiency Virus) that attacks and infiltrates cells called T-lymphocites (T-Cells). T-Cells are important fighters in the immune system that help the body battle disease. After it takes over the T-Cell, that nasty old HIV monster makes a virus factory and starts copying itself. Then its little babies leave the mama T-Cell and find other T-Cells to prey upon. The result is that the immune system is weakened and then the body is susceptible to other diseases that are made more serious by the fact that the body has lost some of its fighting power. Most of the time, people don’t really die from AIDS, they die from “opportunistic infections” (like pneumonia) that take advantage of the overworked immune system.
2. Can HIV be treated?
Absolutely! This is something that most people don’t know about. Within the past 10-15 years, medical science has made great leaps in treating the virus. Nowadays, HIV medicines can prevent the virus from spreading. In fact, with Western medication, the viral load (amount of HIV in the blood) is undetecatable in a blood test. Amazing, right? People with HIV are now able to live normal lives- getting married, having HIV-free kids, growing old.
Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical industry has made these meds very expensive and so they’re only available in the West. Developing areas, like Africa and Asia, still don’t have much access to these excellent medications.
3. How can you get HIV?
The majority of new HIV infections stem from three types of exposures: drug use, sexual contact, or (unmedicated) mother to child. You CANNOT, I repeat CANNOT, get it from tears, spit, boogers, swimming, toilets, hairbrushes, or other bodily fluids. Yes, there is a chance you may get it from blood to blood contact (like you have a cut and someone with HIV bleeds on it) but if they’re medicated, the viral load is very, very low. Also, the virus is very fragile so it doesn’t live very long outside the safety of the body.
There have been NO reported cases of HIV transmission by casual contact between two people living in the same house. You just have to be smart- use gloves if you have a cut on your hand, don’t share razors or toothbrushes. WHO WANTS TO SHARE A TOOTHBRUSH ANYWAY?! If you follow universal precautions, then you’ll be okay.
4. What’s the difference between HIV and AIDS?
HIV refers to the fact that the virus is present in your system. It becomes AIDS when the amount of HIV in your system reaches a high level.
5. Are people with HIV sick all the time?
Nope! On the meds, their immune systems are good to go. To help the immune system stave off infection, people (all people, not just postive ones) can eat well and exercise, take multivitamins, everything your doctor says to do.
6. Why adopt an HIV+ child?
Currently, over 2.1 children are infected, with 400,000 being added to that number annually. Certainly we are hoping for a world where education, medication, and pre-natal care is good enough that there are no new infections and babies get to grow up with their mamas. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. HIV+ orphans in other countries (much like this one) are rarely adopted. The stigma is too great.
Really though, we thought, “If not us, then who?” These kids deserve a family that loves them just as much as any other kid does. Even though we pulled our Thai adoption application and it is unlikely that our Foster Care adoption kids will not be HIV+, we remain staunch supporters of HIV adoption.
7. What other resources are available?
Ah, I thought you would never ask! The following sites have been very helpful and educational.
– From HIV to Home – A site specifically about adopting “positive” kids
– Project Hopeful– Another site dedicated to adopting HIV+ kids
– Positively Orphaned– A site that has a photo listing of HIV+ kids, family blogs, and HIV info
– AIDS map– TONS of information and downloadable brochures that help explain different aspects of living with HIV
– AVERT– An international HIV and AIDS non-profit dedicated to education and prevention
– (In Dallas) The A.R.M.S. clinic at Children’s Medical Center is a medical clinic serving about 120 positive kids. They have wraparound services that include pediatric infectious disease doctors, nurse practioners, pharmacists, nutritionists, case managers, and psychologists. Children’s also happens to have some doctors that specialize in International Adoption Medicine.