In the 1980’s, AIDS was a monster. We didn’t understand it. Since then, modern medicine has opened doors. HIV patients under proper medical care live normal lives, marry, and get pregnant without passing anything to their children. Infectious disease doctors proved that treated HIV is not a threat to dentists, classmates, teammates, or coworkers. On this basis, lawmakers said that HIV patients never have to disclose their HIV status to anyone.
As Brad and I spoke to the parents of HIV+ children, we heard the same story again and again. “Medically speaking, caring for our child’s HIV is the easiest thing we have going. The hardest part is the stigma.”
Some families keep HIV status private. One mother explained to me that she did not want her little one to carry the burden of being an HIV/AIDS poster child.
“Sure, people will think that my husband and I are heroes. They will think we’ve done something so selfless, and so brave,” she said. “But then our child is left being the leper. Our child is the one who has to live with the stigma. If we tell, then we’re making ourselves out to be heroes, and heaping a major burden on our child.”
Some families choose to be open about their child’s HIV+ status. The child did nothing wrong to contract HIV, and should not have to carry a secret. They say that the HIV stigma will only subside when families openly and fearlessly show the world that there is nothing to fear. They face the stigma, knowing that God will get all of the glory.
The reaction to those families who are open about HIV is mixed. I heard stories of grandparents who opened their arms, and of church nurseries who closed their doors. I heard of compassionate doctors who helped, and unknowledgeable nurses who fled. Again and again, I heard stories of hesitant friends who came around after proper education.
The stigma is so pointless. So hurtful. And this is why I am speaking out today. Many families are affected by HIV. Yet not all of them can be the advocates that they’d like to be without their children being “uninvited” from sleep overs, or feared at the church nursery, or banned from the baseball team.
So now what? What should we do with our knowledge about HIV? Tomorrow, I’ll talk about our Christian responsibility. Let’s act.
- Intro: A Series is Born
- Part 1: How God Opened Our Hearts to HIV
- Part 2: HIV: I Want That Kind of Faith
- Part 3: The Stigma is a Lie (and Satan is the Liar)
- Part 4: (today) Talking to Mothers of HIV+ Children
- Part 5: What to Do, Now That You Know
- End: Helpful Facts About HIV/AIDS