Q: Will she have AIDS?
A: I was quite surprised when I learned that many people were concerned that the new little one would have HIV/AIDS. While this is a horrible disease, and occurs frequently throughout Africa, not all orphaned children are HIV+.
Just to remind you, it is actually fairly difficult to pass HIV. The virus is very unstable and does not "live" on environmental surfaces. In fact, blood-to-blood contact is one of the few ways HIV is spread (transfusion, sharing needles.) Other ways include penile-vaginal, penile-oral, or penile-rectal contact without a condom, childbirth (not during pregnancy- the virus does not cross the placenta), and breastfeeding. You cannot get HIV from sharing a bathroom, sharing linens, eating off the same dishes, kissing or changing diapers of those infected with HIV. In fact, people without HIV are more likely to infect people with HIV with colds, flu, and other infections than those with HIV are to infect others with HIV.
That being said, all children coming into orphanages are give a "rapid" HIV test and a PCR (more accurate) test upon admission to the orphanage. For those children who are relinquished (given up by parents) a parental history is obtained if possible. (Obviously, abandoned children are not able to have a parental history.) When filling out the Gladney application, I was given the option of having a second HIV PCR test performed before accepting the referral. All children are given another "rapid" test before being issued a passport.
I have chosen to have the second PCR test performed prior to accepting a referral. This is NOT because I am opposed to caring for a child with HIV or out of fear for myself or Abigail, but rather out of the fact that people who "die from AIDS" actually die from other diseases and infections that take over the person's body. I don't think, being a single mom, that I could devote the time and resources necessary to care for an HIV+ child. I am very thankful for those who do choose to adopt HIV+ children. Many of these children do quite well once they get the anti-retro viral (ARV) drugs that we have here in the US. In fact, many of these children do so well and have such a positive response from their white blood cells that they never progress to AIDS. (The distinction between HIV and AIDS is based on the number of certain types of white blood cells present.) Many of the HIV+ women who take these drugs can give birth to an HIV- child. Unfortunately, these drugs are not available in Africa (at least, not to the masses) due to the high costs.