Tuesday, December 19, 2006

HIV and adoption part I

Someone had asked some questions about the previous post so I decided to post something on the topic. I am really no expert on any of this stuff (not that I would be mistaken for one!), but I HAVE done a bit of research and reading and talking to people about it over the course of the last year. Why, you may be asking?

Well for one thing, my sons' birth mom is HIV positive. As they grow and learn about their story and past, I feel like they ought to have accurate and real information about the disease and the reason why she could no longer care for them. Not only that, but both Yosef and Biniam tested positive for HIV themselves at one and a half months old, as they were still carrying their mom's antibodies--very common for children born to parents with HIV/AIDS. Because of this they spent the first several months of their lives in Mother Theresa's Sisters of Charity orphanage for children with AIDS, and were thought to be unadoptable. (The boys were retested months later, tested negative, and were moved to Layla House.)

I've also felt compelled to learn more about all of this after visiting AHOPE while we were in Ethiopia. Every orphan at AHOPE has either HIV or AIDS. It was the first time I'd been around people that I knew had the disease and the experience impacted me in a profound way. On the one hand I was amazed by the fact that these were, well, just average kids! They were running and playing and singing and yelling. I was devastated sitting there though because not only did these kids have a disease that living in Ethiopia would probably cut their lives short (and that carries a horrible stigma), they had no families, they'd lost theirs. That may rank as one of the hardest days of my life.

I guess I also felt intrigued once some of these kids started being adopted. So I started reading a couple of blogs, then just researching the disease in general. (The book I've recommended, There is No Me Without You, is an EXCELLENT way to learn more about HIV.) I began to feel sad that this disease gets no real "airtime" in the US anymore. I began to explore my own thoughts about the whole thing and also think about peoples' thoughts in general. One of the first questions people would ask about Yosef and Biniam once we got them was, "Have they been tested for HIV?" There is a LOT of fear surrounding this disease and a lot of misinformation too. People have told me I'm "lucky" my sons didn't "catch" the disease having lived in Ethiopia.

I also began to feel convicted that an entire continent is being ravaged by what in the US is a very treatable, preventable disease, and yet what have I done about any of it? What is the church at large doing about it, and why? Why is there such a huge stigma attached to this one disease, to Americans who have it, to Africans in general because it's such a problem there?

All of that is why I've tried to learn what I can. Like I said earlier I really am not an expert on this. I don't have a child with HIV or even a friend (that I know of) who has it. But I DO know that Jesus cares (therefore so should I) and that He must be saddened by the way people with this illness are treated, talked about, looked at. People have referred to it as a modern day version of leprosy and I wholeheartedly agree. SO, in my next few posts, I will talk some about HIV, what it means to have it, and ways to help, which include being open to the adoption of a child who happens to be HIV positive.


Lesley said...

Hi there,
I have only posted a comment on your blog once before, but love what you have to say.(What I am trying to say is that you don't know me!) I have two children (ages 2 and 11 months) from Ethiopia and so this topic of HIV/AIDS is very much an interest of mine.
Have you read Steven Lewis's Race Against Time? A brilliant look at Africa, the state of the continent and what the West is (or rather isn't) doing about it.
Anyway, looking forward to reading your next posts about this subject. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Once we visited AHOPE, we too were moved. I was ignorant to the disease until I talked and learned more about it. It is sad that people don't see what goes on in other parts of the world. We are now moving forward in the process of adopting an HIV+ child and I pray others will too. Thank you for sharing your heart.

Shana said...

I have to agree that "There is no me Without You" is an excellent way to learn more about HIV. After reading that book, my own perspective and feelings about HIV/AIDS was greatly changed. We are giving copies of the book to our extended family for Christmas.

kristen borland said...

So I tried leaving a post and it showed up in a yellow box and then disappeared. To repeat what I said, thank you so much for the info and the links posted earlier. It's so easy for me to just remain ignorant and do nothing but hope for good things to happen. But I am tired of that and want to become informed, especially if there's something I could be doing. AIDS research has done a lot for the research of my auto immune illnesses, so it's high time I look into this more. Btw, my post that disappeared was much more eloquent. I'm having trouble thinking clearly right now, trying to get the kids to bed and all. :)


kristen borland said...

Can I borrow your copy of There's No Me without You?

Anonymous said...

I myself know very little about the disease, yet, it's still greatly more than what the average person probably knows. It's sad because as you said, it is very treatable (look at Magic Johnson, he was tested HIV+ back in the early 90's and he's still kicking and healthy). Keep up the information. It'll be fun to learn more.

Brianna Heldt said...

Yes Kristen, I'll bring it to church Sunday if you'll be there?

(Interesting about how the research has aided your own illnesses, I guess that'd make sense since it's an immune issue!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. I love how you said, well jesus cared about it, so should i!! how true that is. if we could only focus on the things he did, rather than what WE think is important!

Anonymous said...

I find this topic truly fascinating, and totally heartbreaking. AHOPE is an amazing place, filled with children that couldn't be any sweeter. Being there changed me too. I'll definitely be back for the rest of this series.

Blaine (aka 5KidMom)

Anonymous said...

yes, brianna, i'll be at church on sunday. i'll be at the 11:00 (or maybe both) because i'll be "on call" for the nursery that service.

thanks! see ya!

Anonymous said...

okay, the last comment is from kristen. sheesh. sorry about that.

Brianna Heldt said...

"on call"--that sounds both official and quite important! :)


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