Monday, January 10, 2011


Let's say you are at a function and all the people and noise are just driving you batty. Here's a tried and true tip on how to quiet and/or clear the entire room. Mention that you are intending to adopt an HIV+ child or children. I guarantee you, conversation will stop, jaws will drop, people will shift and fidget and you will yearn for the sound that was driving you batty in the first place. You will wonder if you should have said anything at all but, you know in your heart that, SOMETHING needs to be said about HIV.

When we first considered adopting HIV+, I didn't know anything either. I only considered it further when Amy, a friend of mine, started to pursue adoption of a set of twins from the Ukraine. One is HIV+ and the other is not. She began to tell me of research that intrigued me and I took it from there.

Sweet friends, HIV is not the death sentence it once used to be. I remember when it first came to the attention of the media. It was frightening and meant a certain and painful death. It quickly became the new leprosy of the 20th century. And unfortunately, it has stayed that way due to lack of information and ignorance (a.k.a. stigma). In the U.S., with medication, it has been downgraded to a chronic and manageable disease. For many, HIV is more manageable than diabetes. For a child that is HIV+, you can hug them, kiss them and bath them with your other children. You can eat off their utensils and drink from their cups. Basically, you can swallow them up with your heart just like they need you to.

I know, I know, you are probably asking about what if my other children, my husband or I contract it? I am sure this would deem us as irresponsible and cruel by putting our family at risk like this. Let's clear some things up. First of all, the virus of HIV is very fragile and can't function long outside its element (like on a counter, clothing etc.). Once a person is on an effective antiretroviral, the chances of transmission are almost zero. Just for the record, there has never been a documented case of a person transmitting HIV in a sports event where a blood producing wound occurred. Here is a quote from a post I read on an "HIVadoption" yahoo group. Her brother, who is a doctor was quoted as saying:

"Even in an untreated patient with HIV, an accidental needle stick in the medical setting has a less than 0.5% chance of transmission. It should be scarier to live with someone with the flu virus than someone with HIV!"

In the country from which we are adopting, most children born with HIV are dead before the age of two. The ones who live longer usually don't make it to their teen years. They do have access to antiretrovirals but sometimes it takes going through several different ones to find one that works. This country does not have the money to purchase the drugs and then sift through to find the antiretrovirals that work. Pharmaceutical companies and their quest for a profit will have (and do have) many deaths on their heads due to their greed. This is a road I could jog a marathon down, but I will least, not on this post.

I know we can't save every child....oh, believe me, I wish we could. But if we are going to invest our money in an adoption, we are bound and determined to make sure it helps those children who have absolutely no hope for the hope of life. Here in the U.S., we have the resources to offer these infected children that allow them to live a normal life. They can be healthy and active, they can get married....they can even have babies with a 99% chance OF NOT passing on the virus. This is amazing. Put me on this train, because I want to be a part of this.

Even after I have explained all of the above to the room I have quieted, many times the stigma of HIV+ still prevails. I can tell this when I start being labeled as a saint, or even better, crazy and irresponsible. Steve and I are rarely labeled as "normal". Here is a quote from "There Is No Me Without You" by Melissa Fay Greene:

"But calling a good person a saint is just another way to try to explain extraordinary behavior. She must be sick! She must be righteous! Whatever she is, she's moving on a different plane of existence from the rest of us, which means we are off the hook. Since most of us onlookers are neither one nor the other, neither saints nor survivors, no one will expect us to intervene."

The truth is, none of us are off the hook. Because we have nine children doesn't make us saints or crazy. We aren't "special". I think you would laugh and be relieved at how "unspecial" we are. It just makes us a couple who has a lot of children. Because we are choosing to adopt a child, and one who is HIV+, it doesn't make us incredible or nuts either. It just means we are doing something; we are risking something, though it never seems enough, but at least it's something. Even little somethings count, because eventually it will lead to something you never thought you would or could do.

I have come to this conclusion. We all are HIV+. We are all in the same boat. Hear me out. Some of us can take a blood test, and it will show up. But the rest of us have spiritual HIV. It shows up in our thought life and our actions or lack thereof. We have a spiritual nature that is bent on death and breaking us down to be ineffective....much like the physical manifestations of HIV. Physical HIV can be kept at bay with the right medications but spiritual HIV can only be kept at bay by one thing......laying your life down at the feet of Christ and serving Him.


  1. Wow Thea! What a powerful post filled with much wisdom and truth. We've gotten similar comments with adopting a special needs child but honestly I don't feel extraordinary...just humbly grateful that God got our attention and that He gave us the grace to follow what He wanted in obedience. Now THAT is a VIRUS that needs to spread like a pandemic throughout the BODY OF CHRIST eh????

  2. Thea, you are awesome! Great post!

  3. Thea,
    Im almost done reading a biography on George Mueller. Many people thought he was crazy by doing what he did. He saved many children by creating orphanages one penny at a time that God only provided. I m at awe with his faith and prayer life. You and Steve are doing something not many people would do and if anything might look down upon it...however, George Mueller gave life to these children just like you are going to do for this little one. He was thought to be crazy but he knew God was calling him to do this. It's people like your family and George Mueller that can change a nation.