A Moscow orphanage is witnessing a shift in attitude towards HIV-positive children. Ignorance and fear that has traditionally surrounded the disease is making way for a growing number of loving, adoptive parents.
When the special orphanage for children from HIV-positive parents opened ten years ago only two or three of them would be adopted a year. Today, the orphanage is finding no difficulty finding families.
Not all the children there are confirmed HIV patients. Regardless, some get adopted before foster parents know for sure.
Yulia’s adopted son is too young to know he is HIV-positive, but when its time to find out his foster mother will be there for him. She does not want her son's name or face to be recognized as she is not sure that everyone is as understanding of the disease as she is. She says people's ignorance scares her more than HIV.
“I was looking to adopt an HIV-positive child because I think they more than anyone need a home and care. What happens to them when they leave orphanages? I know a lot of stories where children refused medication because of their despair,” she says.
One day Yulia will have to start treating her son, but she was only afraid until she saw her future son's face. She says one cannot be afraid to love:
“When I saw him I knew it was meant to be. Of course I want a healthy child. I would give everything for him not to have HIV. But I am prepared to go through all the difficulties with him.”
Spreading awareness to the general public of what it means to be HIV-positive is the main task in eliminating prejudice on the subject. In addition, if an HIV-positive mother follows all precautions the chances of passing it on to her child are very small. Even if they do not, 60% of children are born virus free.
In Russia, the first registered child born to an HIV-positive mother was in 1996; now, several thousand of them are orphans.
In Russia, the percentage of orphans from HIV-positive parents is the same as those without. Medics say that HIV-positive mothers leave their children for the same reasons others do.
“People are now more educated about HIV. The 20th century plague myth is dispelling. Now we know how to diagnose it, how to treat it and how to integrate HIV-positive people socially. And of course the government’s help such as social pensions and medical services make it easier to support an HIV-positive child,” explains Doctor Yulia Vlatskaya.
As for Yulia, she says she would adopt the little boy even if she had her own children. She wants to have three, and right now she is hoping to give a home to the little sister of her adoptive son – whether that little girl has HIV or not.
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