I am finding that this is a big question in the mind of those who first find out we are attempting to adopt a child with HIV. One of the first things I did when looking at the girls' profile was to pause at those three little letters that stand for so much. I am from the era when HIV and AIDS first became household words. Back then it was primarily a "gay" issue and a death sentence, but political entities have successfully lobbied for billions of dollars to be spent on research (more then even cancer) and they have convinced the populace that it is a threat to all of us, not just the homosexual community.
The first trip I made down Research Lane was to Dr. Mercola's website and did a search on HIV. The first article that appears is titled, "HIV Does Not Cause AIDS". I do not agree with Dr. Mercola's New Age spirituality, but I have followed his writings for years and put many of his admonitions into practice and I trust what he says medically and also the authors whose articles he chooses to publish. This article is a fascinating read and blows the status quo on HIV out of the water! It's a sad fact that political correctness will most likely keep this information from being widely accepted because it will mean the cessation of dangerous behaviors that seem to mean more to some than life itself.
Nevertheless, the article was very encouraging, stating that HIV is a harmless virus, easily handled by a strong immune system and that other factors are the causative agents for the onset of AIDS, but that HIV isn't one of those. It can be common denominator with those who develop AIDS, but it is not the culprit that makes people sick. Dr. Al-Bayati's assertion is that the drugs that are used to treat gastrointestinal ailments from which homosexual men suffer (namely steroids like Prednisone) are to blame for the suppression of the immune system and the subsequent onset of AIDS. In addition to steroids, heavy drug use and severe malnutrition can cause AIDS, in a of themselves, without HIV being present. Dr. Al-Bayati believes that much of Africa's AIDS cases are due to said malnutrition and asserts that AIDS has been there for decades, but didn't have a name until recently when HIV was discovered. It is interesting to note that 77% of those who participated in the clinical trials for AZT, the primary antiviral drug used to fight HIV, were HIV negative! How's that for warped "science"?
I have shared this article with my pediatrician and she was absolutely fascinated by the prospect and was excited to see what might happen with this new knowledge. She is willing to walk down the road of the information presented in this article, though cautiously. I find now that my great concern for her is not the virus but the drugs she may have been on for years that have wreaked havoc on her little body. She is much shorter than her sister and it is well-known the steroids stunt growth. Our main focus will be providing her with excellent nutrition and supplements like Vitamin D and ALA to boost her immune system. And to cautiously step her down from the meds she is on, with the help of infectious disease experts, and hope that her body recovers. We will be checking her CD4+ T-cell counts regularly to see if this approach is working and will certainly change the strategy should anything but improvement occur.
So, now to answer to big question: Am I afraid that HIV will spread to my family? No, it's almost impossible to spread HIV unless you are involved in the kind of sexual behavior that damages the body and causes bleeding sores, through which the virus can enter. You cannot get HIV from kissing, drinking after someone, using their toothbrush nor airborne routes like sneezing and coughing. It is sad to think that so many kids are not considered as adoptable because of this virus that many doctors are now concluding is not harmful at all.
But I do still feel the need, since I am in no way an expert in this area, to prepare myself for the worst case scenario: that she may not make it. I keep reading, even from conventional sources, that the treatments today are so much better than they once were, and one can expect to live a completely normal life with HIV and you wouldn't know the difference between an HIV positive child and any other child. See this video about an African child who got treatment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-kNHl6MNl4 I found this last night, a worst case scenario and she recovered, presumably because she got good medicines and antivirals. I suspect that proper nutrition helped too. Whatever the healing agent was, I was encouraged because she is nowhere near sick as the child in the video. Apparently, she feels fine until she has to take her drugs!
But I have decided that should she get terribly ill and die, I will be willing to walk with her down whatever road Jesus would have her go. I am extremely hopeful for the best, but emotionally (as much is possible) prepared for the worst. I would rather her pass on to heaven in the arms of a loving mother than to do so in an orphanage, however caring they may be. An institution can never replace a family. A one would need a family most when facing the Ever After. And then there's her sister. Right now, she has a sister. Imagine how the despair would be compounded, losing her twin with no family support. She will do much better if she is surrounded by those who can grieve with her and help her to keep walking, should the worst occur.
Again, I am not overly worried about worst cases, but I am willing to go there. I tend to be a realist and I hate (bad) surprises and I want to have my real life goggles on through everything. I owe them that much. I shall do for them as Christ has done for me: to walk with them through whatever may come...