Friday, June 29, 2012

the truth about HIV.

so, i have a story to tell.  it's important to me.  i hope you'll read & even consider sharing.
in all honesty, the reason i continue to blog publicly is because you all have given me
such support in advocacy.  if we are Christians, we are commanded to speak up for
those without a voice & i'm really grateful for this space as one way to do that.

the other day, i couldn't take my split ends even one more day, so i decided to go somewhere
quickly for a trim while waiting on my 'real' hair appointment.  the lady was very chatty and
quickly learned all about our family....7 children with twin girls on the way & that our 4 girls
are biological and our 3 boys were born in Uganda, Africa.  many questions ensued and my 
level with comfort with that usually depends on the person's tone/demeanor when asking
and if our children are around.  we certainly love adoption in our family, but we see it in a 
very realistic light.  the need for adoption is based on great loss & that comes with brokenness
and grief.  i'll never answer questions about our boys' specific journeys, but even the seemingly
'easier' questions just can't be that fun for our boys to hear about over and over.
i was pretty open with her about the process of adoption since i was alone & she said she always
had wanted to adopt.  then came the question i just wasn't prepared for.  she said,
but your boys are from Africa.  don't they all have STDs?! 
 you know....don't they all have AIDS?! 
i can tell you in that moment that i didn't feel very full of grace.  i could just angrily 
tell her no and move on.  yet, i knew i had a choice.
i had a choice to remember that, even as a registered nurse just a few years ago, 
i had no idea all the new information out on HIV & AIDS.  
i had a chance to educate her. so i did.
cleansing a wound of a boy with HIV as we left the 'remand center' [prison] for the day.
sometime between our two adoptions, i was contacted about a sibling set that needed a family 
& one of them was HIV+.  matt & i didn't know too much about HIV, but we immediately knew
that we would be their family if they needed one.  we poured ourselves into the most up-to-date
information on this virus & instead of being more scared, we were really reassured.  if we were to
be their family, our other children were at no risk, the virus is now more easily managed with 
medication than type 1 diabetes & the child could live a long, normal life with HIV.
we soon found out that those children were not meant to be ours & they are in a loving home 
now, but it fueled my passion to educate myself about orphans living with HIV.
so, i want to tell you what i told that lady cutting my hair. maybe you were wondering, too.
or maybe you can help me in educating people so, oh Lord please, my boys don't have
to be standing with me & hear this awful stereotype.  or maybe it will be put on your
heart to help educate & advocate for orphans with HIV.  

•first, HIV & AIDS are different & no, not every child that once lived in Africa
has either one. [and many people that do not live in Africa do have this virus.]

•HIV is a virus that can be spread through birth, breastfeeding, unprotected sex 
& needle sharing. 
[it is even very possible for HIV+ people to have children that do not have the virus.]

•HIV can easily be managed with medication & the virus [though always present]
can become undetectable in the person's blood.  this makes it even more 
difficult to transmit!
•HIV cannot be spread in normal household settings.  you cannot get it from touching,
hugging, kissing, swimming, sharing utensils, etc.  
•although we should just know 
 not touch anyone's blood, the virus cannot live outside the body--
so if a person with HIV is bleeding & somehow that blood touches one of your cuts,
it would still be a very, very low [to NONE] risk of transmission.  even less
if their viral load was undetectable.  
[and really, how often do you get other people's blood in your wounds?!]
•HIV is very manageable and the biggest issue in these people receiving proper
care is the shame and stigma that we've all placed on them.  even in Uganda,
the medications are free & available within your district--if you are willing &
able to get them.
that is all the education that i could pack in the rest of my time getting my hair trimmed,
but if you have other questions, please feel free to ask them in these comments.
when we know better, we do better, right?  
a lot of my education & help advocating
has come from Project Hopeful's well educated and cited sources.
 they educate, encourage & enable families adopting children with HIV/AIDS
and advocate for some of the other most overlooked orphans world wide.

today & tomorrow are the very last days to vote for them to win a $50,000 grant.
it's a simple vote via your facebook account.
will you please join me in voting for them right now & tomorrow?
let's help them spread TRUTH!

feel free to come back and tell me.  i'm not allowed to offer you anything,
but i'll totally think you're awesome for being willing to educate yourself
and speak up for these kids.  group hugs all around!


  1. So thankful for all the truth you share with us.


  2. I just wanted to say that you handled that situation in the most amazing way. I don't know that I could have done the same, but educating others is much more effective in te long run. Thank you.

    1. thank you. like i said, i didn't feel very full of grace, but thankful i route to muddle through it anyway. and hopefully it prepares me better for next time. i appreciate your encouragement!

  3. Thank you Love! Amazing and informative words!

  4. love this -- this you for sharing TRUTH!!

  5. Good good!! Through our adoption process I have learned so much about the virus i didn't know. And I always love seeing more education being passed around!

    1. thank you for your encouragement!

  6. Love this so much. Thank you for sharing. It blows my mind... The things that people blurt out. I'm thankful that you are getting the truth out there.

    1. i know. it's hard for me sometimes the things people say and i'm trying more and more to be thankful for the ones that at least voice it. it does give me a chance to educate as opposed to the ones that don't say anything or just say it behind my back. thank you for your encouragement!

  7. I have been following your blog for the last couple of months and I am always inspired by your stories. You are right- education is key and it is the only way for people to learn the truth about certain issues like HIV. We are in the beginning stages of our adoption from Ethiopia and already I have been surprised by some of the comments people have made, even when their intentions were good. Recently, I have learned more and more about children and orphans living with HIV and it is amazing how the anti-viral medicines can really lower their counts and allow them to live happy, healthy lives. I think as the mother of children who were born in Africa you will continue to advocate and educate for the rest of your life. You are an inspiration to those of us who are adopting.

    1. thank you for your kind, encouraging words. we do automatically become advocates when we choose to have adoption as part of our family story--especially multiracial families. blessings on your adoption journey!

  8. Thank you so much for posting this. I have a decent working knowledge of HIV/AIDS based on experiences with a community of children in Uganda orphaned by HIV/AIDS and a summer interning with a comprehensive HIV/AIDS services agency in Philadelphia. Both were two completely different settings affecting very different people, but they both struggled the most with what you mentioned: the stigma. I'm so grateful for you bringing awareness to something so many people remain in the dark about and so inspired by your constant commitment to making this world a more beautiful place. You are such a blessing :)

    1. thanks for sharing that, kaity....what awesome experiences. thanks for your work to help these precious people, too!

  9. YES and AMEN girlfriend!!!!

  10. Voted! Thanks so much for this work. When I was teaching in a low income school in Los angeles I had two people with HIV come and speak to my 7th graders for health class. Im pretty sure it was the greatest lesson for all involved over the entire year!

    1. i bet! that is awesome. thanks for your support for project hopeful!

  11. I voted! I'm so grateful to have you for a resource Love!

  12. "•HIV is a virus that can be spread through birth, breastfeeding, sex & needle sharing." UNPROTECTED sex. Folks with HIV and AIDS can very much have a healthy sex life and have children free of the disease. There are just precautions that need to be taken.

    I'm glad you were able to have that conversation!

    1. yes, yes, yes! very true. that is a piece of knowledge that i just take for granted knowing, but i will add it to the post because it's so true & probably a little known fact. thank you!

    2. Thank YOU! Education can conquer many fears!

  13. Good for you for educating her. It would have been so hard for me not to say something ugly to her. I am so glad your boys were not there with you. Great facts you shared.
    (Ps- I LOVE your fam- I follow you on IG - snyderstories)

  14. SO glad you shared this. Even within our own journey towards local foster adoption, we need to know this. It has really only been this past year that I have realized how wrong I was about HIV. It is good, so good, to spread the truth. God bless you for that.

  15. thank you for sharing! will vote for sure!
    ps : i <3 your blog !!

  16. In Canada there have been ZERO cases of an HIV positive woman with proper prenatal care passing the virus on to her baby! There have been a lot of medical advances for this virus, it is not the life-sentence it once was. Now if we can only get rid of the stigma!