I wholeheartedly believe that there won’t be any more HIV positive orphans to advocate for within my lifetime.
Until that time, I will advocate for parental care until the time comes when my advocacy efforts are no longer needed.
The solution, of course, is in preventing mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS (PMTCT). Preventing a birthmother from transmitting the virus to her newborn is only a matter of having access to medication.
In 2006, about 530,000 children became newly infected. In 2008, around 430,000 children became infected. As time goes on, fewer babies are being born with HIV/AIDS due to PMTCT. At the rate of 100,000 fewer per year, we’re only a few years away!
In 2004, only 10% of pregnant women with HIV were receiving ARVs in low and middle income countries. In 2008, that figure was up to 45%. Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation reports 53% of pregnant women worldwide are currently receiving ARVs (June 2010). [Kaiser reported 51% in July 2010.] This percentage is increasing every year and I feel it is feasible to get to nearly 100% PMTCT rates in the foreseeable future.
In high income countries, mother to child transmission has been virtually eliminated and I have every reason to believe that this will be true worldwide as access to treatment becomes more commonplace. As an example, less than 200 babies are born HIV positive in the United States every year because pregnant women in this country have access to the meds. Out of those children who do end up positive, the vast majority stay with their biological families and only a couple of children per year end up in need of foster or adoptive parents.
So why do I advocate for HIV positive orphans? I choose to advocate because I feel orphans with HIV are among the most underprivileged people in society. Their need for healthcare is a life or death matter and their need for a family is paramount to become a productive member of society. These children have few people speaking out for them and they truly do not have the means to speak out for themselves. Being a child without parents must be an immensely difficult position to be in. I can’t imagine how it might be for a helpless sick child without a parent who loves them, cares for them, protects them and provides for their daily needs. Statistics regarding the future prospects of children who emancipate from orphanages, the foster-care system, or who grow up as street children are profoundly bleak: prostitution, homelessness, substance abuse, incarceration and suicide affect the vast majority of those children who grow up as orphans and never find permanent, loving homes. In my opinion, orphans with HIV and other diagnoses which ostracize them, are the most disadvantaged people on the planet and I cannot think of a group in greater need of a voice.
Until there is universal access to prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, I will continue to bring awareness, educate families and find homes for these precious children. There are TOO MANY – at least 200 children (that I know of) are eligible for international adoption RIGHT NOW. If you would like to join me in advocating, please be in touch. We need at least 200 families and I can’t find them alone – people need to see these precious faces and learn the facts about pediatric HIV. If you are not in a position to adopt, please consider sponsoring a child so they may stay in a permanent loving family, contributing to the adoption fund of family trying to bring an HIV+ child home, or advocate on behalf of a child so that a family can find them.