Life Expectancy for Children Born with HIV

One of the big questions I hear when people are considering parenting a child with HIV is “what will their life expectancy be?” Dr. McComsey says “relatively normal life expectancy” and Dr. Gallant says “close to normal”. Medical professionals don’t know the exact answer because children born with HIV/AIDS are nearing 30 years of age at the most (HIV/AIDS was first discovered in this country in the early 1980s). Sadly, many of the children born with HIV in the early days died of AIDS because there were no adequate treatment options. However, children born today with HIV have an excellent prognosis due to the antiretroviral medications. Studies regarding life expectancy are done on adults and it is extremely important to remember that the participants in these studies are often in vastly different situations than children growing up in adoptive families. For example, they have other risk factors that affect their life expectancy in addition to HIV such as poor nutrition, co-infections, IV drug use, homelessness, low socioeconomic status, unhealthy lifestyles and poor adherence to treatment.

Only the most recent studies are worth reading since HIV/AIDS research changes all the time as the treatment options get better. Studies from 2005 indicate anywhere from 6 years less than normal to 21 years less than normal. The average between these 2 extremes is 13.5 years less than the normal US lifespan (78) which is an average life expectancy of 64.5 years (2005). These studies are already 6 years old and the numbers get higher all the time as the medications get better. This means that  children born with HIV can live long enough to meet their grandchildren. The best thing we can do to increase life expectancy is encourage our children to lead a healthy lifestyle and diligently adhere to their medications.

TheBody.com

 

Children Born with HIV who are Now Adults

There is a new section of links in the right column titled “Grew Up with HIV”.

Now that HIV/AIDS has been around for nearly 30 years, there are adults who have had HIV all their lives. Thankfully, they are speaking out about their lives and inspiring others. These people were born at a time when anti-retroviral medications were not yet available (before 1996) and they know the heartbreak of losing loved ones who did not live long enough to access ARVs. Those who survived the early days with very few treatment options eventually got access to ARVs and many lead normal healthy lives now. However, some adults in this same situation were not as lucky and their disease progressed to AIDS before ARV treatment was an option which has lead to health problems or cognitive issues. Others did not grow up in advantageous living conditions (some examples – parents who were not attentive to medication regimes, neglectful situations, and/or living with HIV+ parents in extremely low socio-economic positions without nutrition among other disadvantages)…their stories can also be found online, but I am choosing to feature individuals who grew up in optimal environments similar to those that adoptive families provide, as I feel their stories are most relevant to our topic. This post is open to comments and discussion.

Hydeia Broadbent Interview

I interviewed Hydeia Broadbent and published the post on my old blog in February 2009. It’s not an active link anymore so I’m republishing the interview here with a few extras.

 

Interview With Hydeia Broadbent

Hydeia ~ Thank you so much for this opportunity to interview you. I admire you and your family so much. Your story is fascinating to me, as this website is all about finding homes, families and sponsorship for children with HIV/AIDS. To my knowledge, you may have been one of the very first babies in the United States born with HIV and adopted. What year were you born? Also, do you or did you know of any others born before you who had HIV and were adopted or fostered?

I was born in 1984 to a woman who was addicted to intravenous drugs. I was left in the hospital and turned over to the state of Nevada.  My family was told I was the first child born with HIV in the state of Nevada.  I don’t know of any children born before me who were adopted. My mother worked together with parents of children born after me to start a daycare center for children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

You and your family have been very open about your HIV status since you were first born, which was extremely rare in the 1980s and 1990s. Did you ever feel upset that your parents didn’t give you a ‘choice’ about disclosure?

I feel my parents made the right choice because I’ve seen so many kids my age dealing with depression and trying to cover up lies because they were keeping secrets about why they were at the hospital or why they were taking medicine. Being public showed our family who was loyal and which friends weren’t quite as trustworthy. Take me as I am! Being public made it easier for me as an adult dealing with dating because I never had to sit someone down and have the “ I have AIDS speech.” They already knew what they were getting into…well somewhat!

Things were much different 25 years ago then they are today, and although the stigma is still great, I can’t imagine how it was when you were growing up. Would you mind sharing any stories about how you were treated and how that compares with a child growing up with HIV now?

For me growing up, I really did not face any problems which I can remember. My mother and father dealt with some things, like my kindergarten teacher spraying me with bleach because I sneezed and she mistakenly thought the virus was air born! In another incident, people changed seats on an airplane because I told them I had AIDS after they nosily asked why I was taking medicine.  My mother played it off and said “oh look we have an extra seat – now we can stretch out and get some sleep”. My parents never made a big deal of things when people were acting weird because they did not want me to feel like something was wrong with me.

Do you remember any doctor’s predictions on how long your life expectancy would be? What is your prognosis now?

My prognosis now if fine; I just have to take care of myself and stay on top of my medicine and eat well.  When I was three, the doctors told my parents I would not make it past the age of five! I even coded blue a few times, but after living past what the doctors feared would be my final days, we decided that no one really knows when your time is up until your time is up.

You must have been involved in many clinical and drug trials? How have you handled all the medication over the years? Do you get pill fatigue? Have you been able to take a ‘break’ from meds?
Some people who are infected with HIV/AIDS are able to not take medication for a while without any real health problems but I am not one of them. I tried taking a break a few years ago but my viral load got too high.  When I was younger, taking medicine was something I always did and never knew anything different so I did not complain about taking pills until I got older and wanted a break. Now I would rather take pills everyday instead of being in the hospital and kept from my everyday life.
I understand you have been an AIDS activist since you were very young. Can you tell us about that experience?
I love being an activist and using my voice and life to try and help as many people as I can. I am willing to work with as many people as possible because my story might stop someone from becoming infected. Also if I can help someone who just found out they are infected or a person who may be sick and depressed and feel like giving up, I find it gives hope to people to look at my life and see that I am 25 and no one believed I would be here today!  Over the years I have gone to so many places I cannot name them all, and I have been on all types of television shows and in magazines, but what I love most is speaking to youth and answering questions they have which they do not feel they can ask their parents.

How old were you when you started dating? Can you tell us a bit about the transition of becoming a teenager, an adult and how HIV relates to an already confusing time of adolescence and dating?

I really did not date much when I was a teenager because I was traveling and going to various conferences. I only went to a public high school for my senior year so that kept me from the drama most teens go through at that age. My first boyfriend was when I was about 16 and we dated for about a year and he traveled with me a few times.  I have been with my present boyfriend on and off since 2003. He travels with me when he can and he comes to my doctor appointments with me and picks up my prescriptions for me when I do not feel well or when I am traveling. He is a big part of my everyday life.
Do you think you might have a family some day?
I believe I will give birth to a child in a few years when I own a home and have some more money saved, then maybe a year or two later I would like to adopt a child because so many kids here in America need homes.

Have you ever had any problems receiving medical care including medications? I think some people worry that their adopted children will have comprehensive coverage until they are 18, yet are concerned about health insurance as they become adults.
No I have been okay with receiving health care and getting my medications but I have had close calls before where I was unsure if I was going to be able to get health care. Sometimes it is very scary when wondering where you are going to get health care or help paying for medication, but there are now so many outreach programs and centers that provide help or can point you in the right direction.

Hydeia Broadbent was one of the earliest pediatric HIV patients at a time when only a handful of children had the infection. At the time, AIDS was just being named and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, had not yet been discovered. To date, about 9,000 children have contracted the virus from their mothers in the United States and more than 2.3 million worldwide. Hydeia is a living testament to the incredible progess that has been made in HIV research and treatment. More information about Hydeia’s life can be found in the mother/daughter memoir You Get Past The Tears (synopsis) and you can also see her on Extreme Home Makeover. She can be reached through HydeiaBroadbent.com.  Many thanks to Ms. Broadbent for her time and for her honesty and insight.  I hope that this interview will show the excellent quality of life of people born with HIV and lead some adults to a child with HIV in need of parental care.

Here are the extras:

HIV Adoption Forum February 12th in Chicago

Project Hopeful – HIV Adoption Forum Invitation

Project HOPEFUL in partnership with University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital Adoption Clinic are pleased to offer their first Parent Forum of 2011. These parent forums have been hugely successful educational tools for parents and extended family members who desire to learn more about HIV/AIDS and adoptive parenting.

Come join us February 12th from 10am-noon at the University of Chicago where attendees will benefit from expert medical knowledge regarding the latest in HIV/AIDS treatment and care, along with the opportunity to have specific questions answered by University of Chicago medical staff. Project HOPEFUL will offer real-life practical insights into adopting and raising children who are positive. This parent forum is designed to offer prospective adoptive families a realistic understanding of the joys and challenges of parenting a child or children living with HIV/AIDS.

Topics University of Chicago Adoption Team will Discuss:

  • Medical, developmental, and psychosocial aspects of adoption
  • Thriving with HIV in 2011

Topics Project HOPEFUL will discuss:

  • Day-to-day experiences
  • Medications and medical visits
  • Educating family and friends
  • Preparing for adoption

The session will also feature open Q&A time allowing attendees to question the panel  along with several experienced adoptive parents.

To register for the forum simply click HERE to use the Donate page. Fill out the form and add “Univ of Chi Forum” in the comments section at the bottom of the page. Please be sure to indicate the number of attendees in your party. Registration is only $10.00 per family.

Single Men, Gay couples & individuals Adopting Children with HIV

Men can adopt internationally, whether single, gay or straight.

Following is an extensive list of country programs which may be open to men and other adopting parents who are not in a traditional married relationship. This article was written in January 2011 and things change in the international adoption world very quickly. [Update as of 2016, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico or the best countries for LGBT singles and couples]. Please contact me with any corrections to this information so I can try to keep this article updated. Always do your own research and be diligent in your quest for correct and current information. Adoption.state.gov lists the adoption authority in each country and the embassy can also provide official information about adoptive parent eligibility requirements and licensed agencies in your country of citizenship. Requirements are often agency specific, so if you find an agency you want to work with which does not indicate that men can adopt – ask them to make an exception for an HIV positive orphan or keep searching.

India is open to single men and women and definitely has HIV-positive children registered for international adoption. Try CHLSSWACAP or Illien Adoptions in America or CAFAC and Children’s Bridge in Canada.  Single Ichild Yahoo Group. Canadians Adopting From India Forum.

Colombia (not Columbia) is open to single men and there are HIV+ children waiting. [Update: as of April 2016, same-sex marriage is now legal in Colombia which may mean that LGBT individuals and couples can adopt]. Contact CHLSS, La Vida or AdopolisAdopt Colombia Yahoo Group. Swedish Colombian Adoption Yahoo Group -En Lista for de som har /kommer att adoptera fran Colombia. Dutch Colombian Adoption Yahoo Group – Adoptie Colombia voor en door aspirant ouders.

Philippines allows single men to adopt according to Children of All Nations. Also see Wide Horizons for Children, maybe Crossroads, Welcome House / Pearl S. Buck Int’l, and Madison Adoption Associates indicates that families are needed for children with HIV, although they specify single women (inquire and show them other agencies which allow men as well as this site which does not restrict men). Hand In Hand has placed HIV+ children from a different country.  Bethany Christian Services (experience with HIV) indicates that single applicants will need pre-approval for a waiting child. Holt International (experience with HIV) indicates single applicants are accepted for children with special needs – perhaps they would be able to locate a child with HIV lacking parental care. If you are in Canada, try Formons Une Famille adoption agency which is currently processing special needs requests only.  Formons Une Famille Philippines Yahoo Group (Canada). Adoption_Phillipines (in French). Adopt Philippines International (if you are outside USA), Adopt Phillipines USA.

Uganda HIV+ children are in need of international parents and single men are allowed to adopt. Some adoption agencies you could start inquiring with include Adoption Advocates International, Americans For African Adoption (AFAA), Children of All Nations and Nightlight Christian Adoptions. Independent adoptions are also allowed. Uganda Adoptions Yahoo Group and Ugandan Adoptive Families.

Estonia came to a standstill after this article was written. It used to be an excellent option for single dads who wish to adopt. There have been successful HIV adoptions from this country. For an update, contact Adoption Hope International. See the Estonian Adoption group and the AdoptingFromEstonia group.

Latvia is another excellent option for adopting single fathers. Children with HIV are currently registered for international adoption. Men are welcome to adopt Latvian children. Some of the agencies to start with include About A Child, One World Adoption Services and Children of All Nations.

Costa Rica allows single men. See Wide Horizons for Children or Welcome House / Pearl S. Buck to find out if children with HIV are in need of parental care.

Bulgaria is open to single male adoption but at the time of this writing, there were no waiting children with HIV. An adoption agency in Canada such as Sunrise might be able to partner with Vesta for Bulgaria. There are many American adoption agencies working in this country, although the ones that specifically mention “singles” (opposed to “single women”) include: Lifeline, Carolina Adoption Services, Adoptions Together, Hopscotch Adoptions, About A Child, Adopolis, MLJ and Gladney.  That’s just a starter list. Hopefully one of those will be able to represent you and locate an HIV+ child for you, but if not, there are other agencies to contact such as OWAS – point out to them that single men are not restricted by Bulgaria. Inquire with your country’s embassy such as the US Embassy in Bulgaria and Bulgaria’s adoption authority website Ministry of Justice. See the Bulgaria-Adopt Yahoo Group.

Ecuador Single men can adopt although I have not researched waiting children with HIV. Try Terre des Hommes Ontario if you are Canadian or CHSFS and Illien for Americans. All three agencies have experience with HIV adoption and might be able to locate an HIV+ child for you. The central authority is CNNA.gov.ec Consejo Nacional de la Ninez y Adolescencia (CNNA) National Council of Childhood and Adolescence. See also Ecuador-Adopt Yahoo Group and CanEc_Adoption Yahoo Group for Canadians.

Moldova At the time of this writing, The Family Network did not have parent requirements for Moldova on their website, Carolina Adoption Services,Spence-ChapinAdoption Miracle and Adoptions Together all indicated single women (which might be an agency not government preference). I think it’s worth contacting them “just in case” because this might be a potential country program for single men as adoption.state.gov does not state a gender preference. The US Embassy in Moldova or other Moldovan Embassies might also be able to provide you with concrete eligibility policies and point you in the right direction.   HIV-positive orphans ARE currently registered for international adoption (according to CAS). The adoption authority which makes the rules is the Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family and the various links lead here. See the Moldova Adoption Yahoo Group

Liberia allows single parents to adopt and does not state a preference between single fathers and single mothers. All Blessings International states that it is one of three adoption agencies licensed to place children with medical needs. The website states there are HIV+ children in the program. However, this particular agency only mentions single women – inquire as adoption.state.gov does not indicate that men are unwelcome. Adopt International accepts male applicants. AdoptingFromLiberia and AdoptAfrica Yahoo Group.

Peru allows single dads to adopt. Children of All Nations has indicated that waiting children with HIV are currently registered for adoption. Other agencies to consider include CHSFSVilla Hope, Carolina Adoption Services, and Illien Adoptions International. The Yahoo Group is PeruAdopt and is open to US, Spain, Italy and other countries.

Haiti is open for single parent adoption (does not state men or women) and there have been HIV-positive children registered for international adoption in the past. Try Adoption-Link (which experience with HIV adoption and states that exceptions to parent criteria can be made for HIV-positive children), Love Beyond Borders or Carolina Adoption Services to start. There are many other agencies to inquire with although single men are not mentioned on their websites. If you are in Canada, try CAFAC or Sunrise. Outside of US and Canada, contact your country’s adoption authority or the Haitian adoption authority Institut de Bien Etre Social et de Recherches (IBESR) or your embassy such as US Embassy in Haiti. The HaitianAngels Yahoo Adoption Group and the Canadians Adopting From Haiti group might also be of assistance.

Jamaica can be a challenging adoption process according to the Yahoo group. Adopting parents in process say the best way to adopt from Jamaica may be to identify a child yourself and adopt independently. Plan on corresponding with the Jamaicans diligently and traveling there occasionally to keep the paperwork moving along. All single applicants are considered on a case by case basis according to adoption.state.gov. There is at least one HIV orphanage which may be able to help you identify a child. Child Development Agency (CDA) is the central adoption authority. CAFAC in Canada.

Belize is open to single men and women. There are waiting children with HIV currently registered.

Mexico allows single men and same sex couples to adopt jointly from certain jurisdictions including Mexico City. Contact CHLSS which has experience with HIV adoptions, single men and LGBT adoptions. Other options might be Carolina Adoption Services, International Child FoundationAcross the World Adoptions, All God’s Children or MLJ Adoptions. Be sure you are using an approved agency. I do not know of specific waiting children with HIV, but the agencies can advise you.

Democratic Republic of the Congo Singles are accepted, with no stated preference toward women. Try Hands Across the Water, One World Adoption Services, Wasatch International Adoption, MLJ and Compassionate Hearts (experience with HIV). Congo Adopt Yahoo Group. Our Hearts in Congo Yahoo Group (Canada?) Adopcion Congo (Spanish language)

Nicaragua MLJ states that single men can adopt from this country. Please inquire with the agency to find out if HIV+ children are in need of adoptive fathers. Nicaragua Adoption Yahoo Group.

Hong Kong does not state a preference between single women and men. I do not know if children living with HIV are registered for international adoption. You could inquire with Bethany Christian Services. The Yahoo Group is HK Adopt

Uzbekistan allows single applicants according to adoption.state.gov. The agency About A Child has an adoption program in this country and this agency has experience with HIV adoption (in other countries). Please inquire with the agency to determine if there are any Uzbek children with HIV in need of international parents. US Embassy in Uzbekistan. There are other agencies as well. See the Uzbekistan Adoption Yahoo Group.

United States of America allows single men and women of any sexual orientation to adopt openly. There are less than 200 HIV-positive babies born in USA per year and most stay with their biological families. Only a couple of children per year seem to be in need of adoptive families. Contact your county or state foster-adopt organization keeping in mind it is rather unlikely you will be matched with child with HIV. Here is a basic overview of the process.

Poland allows single adoptive parents. BVS Adoption Program indicates “singles” without a preference to men or women.  Saint Mary International Adoptions, Huminska’s Anioly and Children’s House International Adoptions are some more agencies working in this country although these sites state single women. However, CHI says the adopting parent requirements are flexible for children with special needs. Catholic Charities may also be able to assist.  At the time of this writing, siblings with HIV were waiting. You may want to indicate to the agency that men are not excluded as per the Poland Embassy in Washington DC, adoption.state.gov and by confirming with the Polish Adoption Authority (contact info at the bottom of the previous link). According to this link and this link, some of the cooperating countries include Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, USA, Italy, Spain, Finland, Norway and Austria (maybe others). If you are located in a different country, the last link indicates they are open to cooperating with additional licensed agencies by signing a mutual cooperation agreement. See the Polish Adoptions Yahoo Group and the Adoption-Poland Group.

Africa Sunrise Adoption in Canada has an HIV program for several countries in Africa. Inquire to see if singles are accepted into the program.

Russia If you are outside the US, there are MANY orphans with HIV in need of parents right now. There are very limited regions from which men can adopt although I believe N*zhny Novg*rod may be an option. Previously, American men were working with Adoption Center of Washington and Cradle of Hope. Americans cannot adopt from this country as of January 1, 2013.

Hungary allows single adoptive parents (particularly for older children and those with special needs) and does not state a preference between men and women. Try contacting About A Child or Children’s House International to find out if children with HIV are waiting. Hungarian Adoption Yahoo Group.

Brazil is open to single men and women. I do not know if HIV+ children are currently registered for international adoption. Contact CAFAC in Canada. In America, the Hague approved agencies as of January 2016 were Lutheran Social Services, Lifeline Children’s Services, Hand In Hand International Adoptions and Across the World Adoptions. Check the US gov Intercountry Adoption website for updates.  This might be a good option for homosexual couples who want to adopt openly as gay adoption is legal in Brazil (contact CHLSS). See the Summary of Laws by Jurisdiction on Wikipedia to be sure LGBT adoption is legal in your state, province or country before inquiring. Gay adoption is legal in most provinces in Canada. If you are outside of Canada or US, you’ll need to do some research to see if Brazil has an adoption agreement with your country. Start your research with your country’s adoption authority and with the State Judiciary Commission of Adoption (CEJA): see “Brazil’s Central Authority” for contact info. If you happen to be in an area where gay adoption is legal such as Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States and some areas of Canada, Australia, etc – you can adopt openly from Brazil!

Vietnam (updated 01/15) In the past, Americans have adopted orphans with HIV from Vietnam. After a period of closure, USA is now re-opening pilot programs with Vietnam. The 2 agencies to contact are Dillon Int’l (which has placed children with HIV) and Holt Int’l. Vietnamese adoption is also open to citizens of other countries including Canada. Contact Terre des Hommes Ontario which states in a January 20, 2011 update that, although the program is going through major changes, “adoption of special needs children will not be interrupted during this time”. Also Choices in BC, Formons une Famille in Quebec mentions children with HIV/AIDS and mentions “singles” without specifying men or women. TDH Quebec also states “singles” and they will discuss special needs adoptions only at this time. HIV+ children are waiting in Viet Nam. Also see the Vietnam Adoption Canada Yahoo Group. If you are outside of Canada, inquire with your adoption authority to find out if your country has a bilateral agreement with Vietnam.

Panama I have heard of one HIV+ child who has been adopted from Panama by a married American couple. The family indicates there are more waiting children with HIV in Panama. According to the US Embassy in Panama, single persons may adopt a child of either gender. The American agencies working in Panama include Hands Across The Water, Families Through International Adoption and European Adoption Consultants. If you would like to provide official confirmation to an agency that single guys can adopt, you could request the policy directly from Panama’s Adoption Authority (in Spanish language of course): adopciones@mides.gob.pa

El Salvador Single parents are eligible to adopt. If you are American, try Americans for International Aid and Adoption first, followed by All Blessings International (although it states ‘single women’) or Villa Hope (does not specify if singles are allowed). Here is the adoption authority website which lists agencies for citizens of various countries, and here is the US Embassy in El Salvador. Hopefully the agency of your choice will be able to advise you if children with HIV are waiting. ElSalvadorAdopt Yahoo Group and El Salvador Adoption Group

South Africa is open to single adoptive moms and dads as well as homosexual and heterosexual couples. La Vida International indicates that LGBT individuals and couples are welcome to apply. Spence Chapin indicates the same. Another agency working in South Africa is Bethany Christian Services. Canadians and citizens of other countries which have an adoption agreement with South Africa can also adopt. If you are in a different country and want to find out if you can adopt, you could inquire with your country’s adoption authority and South Africa’s adoption authority Department of Social Development, Registrar of Adoptions and/or The Commissioner of Child Welfare. There are HIV+ orphans in need of parental care. Three organizations helping orphans with HIV in ZA include Acres of Love, Shepherd’s Keep and The Love of Christ (TLC)

St. Vincent Creative Adoptions is the only US adoption agencies working in St. Vincent and it states “single women”. If you are Canadian, you could inquire with CAFAC (experience with HIV adoption)  to see if single men can adopt children with HIV although their website also indicates “single women”.  However, adoption.state.gov indicates “single parents may adopt” which does not exclude men, so it is worth inquiring.  I don’t personally know of any orphans living with HIV in need of parental care in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but I’m happy to help anyone research this topic. SVG Adopt Yahoo Group

Lesotho HIV+ children are in need of international parents. I do not know if single men are welcome to apply but you may be able to find out from these contacts. If you reside in one of these four countries, please contact your approved agency: in US contact Americans for African Adoption, in Canada contact Sunrise Adoption Services, in the Netherlands, contact  Stichting Kind en Toekomost: skt@xs4all.nl and in Sweden contact Adoption Centrum: birgitta.l@adoptionscentrum.se~ Dutch Yahoo Group: Adoptie Uit Lesotho

Armenia allows single applicants. Inquire with Carolina Adoption Services. The adoption authority and here to find out if children with HIV are registered for international adoption. Armenian Adoption Interest Yahoo Group

Guyana might be a possibility as single individuals are eligible to adopt. Try World View Adoption Association in Canada. Hopefully an adoption agency will be able to inform you if children living with HIV are waiting for families.

You may find it helpful to join online support groups such as Aussie Singles Adopt, HIV Adoption, Single Adopt Vietnam, Single Adopt NY, UK Single Adopters, Children’s Bridge Singles (Canada), Irish Singles Adopt, Gay Dads, Germany or Denmark Single Adoption, Dutch Single Adoption – Adoptie Singles Vlaanderen, Maybe Baby Seattle, Pop Luck Club, etc.

Lonely Life of a 6 yr Old HIV Orphan in China

China Daily article

Chinese AIDS Orphans
Nicknamed Along, the young boy carries firewood home down a mountain path in Niucheping village of Liuzhou city in Southwest China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, Nov 3, 2010 [Photo/CFPAlong plays soccer in front of the rundown home where he lives alone. People refuse to play with him due to concerns over his illness. No school or welfare homes will agree to take him. Photo taken on Nov 8, 2010. [Photo/CFP
Child headed household

Along makes a fire to prepare for dinner. His grandmother, who lives 15 minutes’ walk away, built two vegetable plots for him, and pays regular visits despite not living with him. Photo taken on Nov 2, 2010 [Photos/CFP]

A six-year-old HIV-positive child named Along has been collecting wood to support himself since both of his parents died from the virus.

He receives 70 yuan of subsistence allowance per month from the local civil bureau plus periodical material supplies from kindhearted people, but he still lives alone without a guardian.

A follow up article was written 2 weeks later titled ‘No Longer Forgotten’

A Long prepares a meal for himself. The 6-year-old HIV-positive boy lives alone in Niucheping village, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. [Photo/China Photo Press

“A Long with his constant companion Old Black. [Photo/Zhou Hua / Xinhua”]

“The boy received toys from people who read about him. [Photo/Zhou Hua/Xinhua”]

“A Long makes a fire to cook. [Photo/China Photo Press”]

Until recently, a 6-year-old HIV-positive boy has lived holed up in a remote mountain village, cut off from humanity with only a dog for company. Chen Feng reports.

A Long is 6. But his world is far removed from his contemporaries. There are no transformer toys, PSP games or friends to play with, only a rough brick structure he calls home and a dog, his constant companion. The HIV-positive boy lives in Niucheping village at the foot of Malu Mountain near Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

His mother died of AIDS in 2009 and his father, racked by a terrible cough and fever, succumbed in the summer.

Dressed in tattered clothes, A Long’s only solace is Lao Hei or Old Black, his dog.

He lives at the end of a muddy path on top of the mountain in his windowless, gray-brick house, with worn wooden doors and rough flooring, permeated by a musty odor.

In contrast, most of the other villagers live in brand new buildings, further down the mountain.

A Long’s parents moved to the top of the mountain six years ago after being diagnosed as HIV- positive.

The boy washes his clothes and cooks his own food at an age when his contemporaries are still being fed by their parents.

Putting some rice and green vegetables into a pot and placing it on a stove made of several blocks of cement, he starts a fire with amazing speed.

He uses no oil or salt but still eats his meal with great relish and sets aside a bit for his dog.

He often sits in the open area in front of his home staring at the path that leads to the outside world, hugging his dog, lost in thought.

He says he has never ventured down the mountain, after his father’s death.

He tells people who visit him – after he came to media attention recently – with great excitement that, “I was in school but only for one term.”

He often takes out his old textbooks, stroking them like little treasures.

Chen Xiyou, headmaster of Malushan Primary School, says: “We allowed A Long to take our pre-school course for one term, but then we had to ask him to leave after his father died of AIDS.

“We have to consider the feelings of the other parents,” Chen says.

A Long is also HIV-positive but has no clue what those letters mean. All he knows is that those who were once his friends have deserted him and doctors refused to help when he accidentally tipped boiling water on his hands.

“But my grandmother always comes to see me,” the boy says.

However, his 84-year-old grandmother will not say why she has not taken him to live with her and his uncles and aunts.

A Long receives a subsidy of 70 yuan ($11.50) from social security and free anti-HIV medicines.

The introverted boy seems overwhelmed with all the attention he has been getting recently.

He is, however, delighted with a basketball that people bought him after reading about him on the Net.

He also practices writing Chinese characters in the sand and is eager to show off his kungfu kicks to visitors.

The latest news is that an old couple has decided to adopt A Long and Old Black, as well as the chicken he is raising.

The local Red Cross Association is also talking about providing proper medical care for A Long.

But there is still one question that troubles the little boy: “When can I go back to school?”

Yu Tianyu contributed to the story.