I decided that rather than trying to put all of these things into my own words, it might just make more sense to share with you all of the things that we have read that were so helpful to us in growing our knowledge about HIV. There is so much great information out there now that there is just no reason for anyone to be uneducated about HIV and just how safe it is to share your life and home with children (and adults) who are HIV+.
One of the first things that we learned that was the most encouraging to us was that HIV is no longer considered a terminal disease- it is not a death sentence- it is now considered a chronic but manageable disease. Our little ones will likely take medication 2 times a day and see a doctor every three months for check-ups, but other than their lives should look exactly the same as any other child's!!!
Also, another very encouraging thing that we learned early on is that there have been NO documented cases of HIV being transmitted in a regular household setting within the last 15 years!! And from what I've read, there were only a couple of cases before that.
In our home we plan to do three things to protect ourselves and others: use universal precautions when cleaning up any type of blood, not share toothbrushes (yuck, who would do that anyway?!), and when the kids are older they will not share razors. That is it. Really.
The information below was taken directly from From HIV to HOME which is an excellent resource! Another great one is Project Hopeful which has tons of info and some great pamphlets which we have been handing out to all of our friends as well tell them about our adoption.
from From HIV to Home
But isn’t HIV contagious? HIV is a very fragile virus, and there are very specific ways that it is transmitted. HIV is only transmitted when the virus enters the bloodstream. This only occurs through sexual contact; through the use of contaminated needles or other sharp instruments, or receiving a transfusion of HIV-infected blood products; and from a mother who is HIV-infected to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, labour and delivery, and breastfeeding. HIV transmission does not occur with normal household contact. It is not transmitted through tears, saliva, mucous or other bodily fluids. It is considered a “communicable” disease – meaning you can’t simply “catch” it. In addition, when an infected person is on treatment, the levels of HIV in the blood are brought so low that they are considered undetectable – meaning the possibility of transmission – even through contact with blood, semen, or vaginal fluid – is that much more remote.
Aren’t these children going to die after their families bring them home? Many people don’t realize that the prognosis for children on treatment for their HIV is excellent. They are expected to live long, normal lives. In fact, in the west, HIV is now considered a chronic illness rather than the terminal disease it used to be. Sadly, this isn’t the case for those HIV infected children living in resource-poor settings, where 50% of infected and untreated children are not expected to live past the age of two.
Is it true that you can have HIV and not develop AIDS? Absolutely! There are over 20 medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of HIV, and more are in development. These medications bring the levels of the virus so low in the body that the virus can be considered undetectable in the bloodstream. Patients receiving treatment for HIV can expect to live long, healthy lives without developing AIDS.
What if I catch HIV from my child? Many people don’t know that HIV is a very fragile virus. As soon as it leaves the body, it begins to die. There are no documented cases of HIV transmission through casual household or school contact. HIV+ children can (and do!) share cups, baths, pools, dishes, bathrooms, etc.! In addition, when children are on treatment for their HIV, the amount of the virus in their bloodstream can be brought so low that it is considered “undetectable” – meaning the amount of the virus in the blood, even through contact with blood, has been brought so low that the possibility of transmission has become even more remote.
What if no insurance company will cover my child? Here’s the great news! It is a legal requirement that all adopted children be added to group insurance plans without pre-existing condition clauses in all 50 states! And many states also require that private insurance plans do the same! In addition, all 50 states have funding programs that will assist with the costs of HIV treatment within specified income guidelines.