Adopting children who are HIV positive

I came across this AP article this afternoon about the increase in American families adopting infants who were born HIV positive. There are a lot of misconceptions about the differences between HIV and AIDS, and it is nice to see that there are people willing to take on the inherent challenges of raising a child who is HIV positive.

I found it interesting that all three families interviewed in the article said that they were very open with the local community about the fact that their children are HIV positive. One of the mothers interviewed in the article went as far as saying that her three young children with HIV “are great ambassadors…They’ve dispelled a lot of myths.” This may be true, and I’m sure it does a lot of good, but isn’t that a lot of pressure to be putting on children to be “ambassadors” for living with HIV at such a young age?

Dr Jane Aronson, who is a pediatrician in New York City and works with children who were internationally adopted, was interviewed for this article, and she believes that the choice to disclose to the world that they have HIV should be left to the child. “Some parents have made a decision to define their children’s identity now – it’s more about them than about the kids,” Aronson said in the article. “That could be very challenging when the children grow up. They didn’t have a choice.”

This is not meant to disparage any of the families featured in this article, or any family that has adopted a child with HIV and decided to disclose this information. They have obviously made an educated decision that is the right one for them. However, I tend to agree with Dr. Aronson that by disclosing all of the information to the community while the child is still too young to make the decision for itself, you are almost branding that child as “the one with HIV” for their entire youth. I’m sure he or she will be faced with many challenges growing up HIV positive that many of us will never experience, I just wonder why it’s necessary to add being an “ambassador” or “myth dispeller” to their responsibilities at such a young age?