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Brother adopting HIV + African Girl
Jan 13, 2006

My brother and his wife are very different from my household family. The don't eat meat, want to home school their 4 year old, worry about the enviornment, etc. I have made sure to try my best to abide by their choices ex. not letting my eight year old watch tv when her cousin is around. Last year they announced that they were adopting a three year old boy from Ethiopia. This caused a lot of controversy in our entire family. Even though my husband and I would never choose that for ourselves, we aren't racist and treat our new nephew just like our neice. Last summer my sister-in-law announced that they were going to have another family member. We thought she was pregnant and was all excited. But when she told us she was adopting, the tone in the room changed. The excitement was gone from everyone but her. We have grow to accept that this twelve year old girl was coming into the family again from Ethiopia. I thought it would be great for my eight year old to have another female close in age to play with. A few days ago my brother told me that she would be arriving in several months. He also wanted to let me know up front that she is HIV +. I am scared stiff. I know that people in the everyday world have it and I don't know about it, but I am terrified for my one year old as well as my eight year old daughters. My brother said I might want to talk to my eight year old about it and how not to touch her when she is hurt and not eat or drink after her. But she is only eight. I am terrified that if I let them around her my daughter might forget and share lip gloss or something with her. Or my one year old will pick up a glass or piece of food that this girl ate off of and catch it. This is very hard for me since I don't like singling someone out. i don't feel that just becasue this little girl has this disease that she should suffer for it by being singled out. I am also mad at my brother and his wife for bringing this into our family. I am mad that eventually she will die and I don't want my girls to have to deal with that. I feel very torn. They do live four hours away. I guess that I can be thankful that they live four hours away and we rarely see them. But I do have relatives on my husband's side who have already said they won't come to any birthday parties if this girl is here. I don't feel that those people should suffer for what my brother has chosen to do. Please help. I am so confused and scared.

Response from Dr. Horwath

Your brother and his family are performing an act of great compassion and caring. This 12 year old girl from Ethiopia will be able to live a very full life with her new family. She will have excellent medical care available to her, which is unlikely to be available in Ethiopia, and this will greatly prolong her life and improve the quality of her life.

Her presence in your family can also enrich the lives of everyone else in the family, including your children. They will learn that there are people in this world (in fact, most of the people in our world) who live very impoverished and desperate lives. They will learn about another continent and other cultures. They may learn compassion and giving in a way that they would not have otherwise.

But in order for your family to benefit from this little girl's presence in your lives, you will need to try to put aside some of your fears. There is an enormous amount of scientific evidence that shows that HIV is not transmitted by living together in the same household. HIV is not transmitted by eating from the same plate, sharing spoons or drinking glasses, or sharing lip gloss. The only risk is by exposure to blood from an open cut, and even this is not likely to transmit the virus unless the blood gets into someone elses open cut. Furthermore, with proper treatment she is likely to be quite healthy and would have very little virus in her bloodstream. The chances of any transmission, even from very intimate contact, would be exceedingly small.

I can understand your fears for the health and well-being of your children. However, your fears are not proportional to the real risks in this case. Your children are at far greater risk of injury and death by riding in the family car or many of the other activities that kids are involved in. You would not want to protect them from traveling in the car or keep them locked up and unable to go outside and live a normal child's life just because there is 1 in 1,000 chance of some injury.

The same applies to befriending the Ethiopian girl. Your kids stand to experience a great enrichment of their lives by knowing her, and any risk of harm to them is very remote.



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