1. Photojournalist Jen Mosher was tired of the loneliness and stigma around having HIV-positive children. So she decided to pen her feelings in a frank essay about her motherhood experience.
“My HIV child is playing with your child, and you don’t know it,” she wrote on the Scary Mommy blog. “She has played with your child at a local private preschool, been dunked next to yours during swim lessons, and stands in line behind your kid in gymnastics class. My HIV-positive child has legal protections that mean we don’t have to tell you — schools, camps, parents, or anyone except doctors and dentists — about her HIV-positive status.”
The photographer wanted people to know her two children live perfectly normal lives, and that despite their HIV status, there’s no harm or cause for fear in them being around other children. Moderm medicine has made the virus powerless, she said.
“My daughter might date your son when she’s a teenager, and she’ll marry and have HIV-negative babies one day — if she wants to. Please, fellow mommies, know that HIV is nothing to be afraid of,” Mosher wrote.
2. Mosher, who lives in the South and asked BuzzFeed News to identify her by her pseudonym, said adopting a child with HIV “ends up feeling sometimes like a version of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”
“Still, our family is moving slowly towards being increasingly more open so that our kids never feel like they have a secret to keep or something to be ashamed of,” she said.
3. Mosher said she and her husband decided to pursue international adoption after she photographed an AIDS orphanage in Africa, but felt like she still wasn’t doing enough.
Three of her friends had died from HIV-related illnesses, and the couple discussed adopting a child with the virus, but were afraid. But eventually, she said, “education and facts overcame our ignorance and fears.”
She told BuzzFeed News:
After doing some research and talking with other families, we absolutely knew that we could do it and that HIV was a manageable chronic disease. We took a leap of faith and asked our adoption agency if there were HIV children available for adoption in China, and were told, ‘Probably not. China has lots of HIV-positive children in orphanages but they are believed to be unadoptable so they do not make them available for adoption.’
In spite of this, the very next day, we got matched with our HIV-positive daughter, and then later, we also got matched with and adopted another amazing HIV-positive child.
Mosher added that it was thanks to an organization that works with HIV-positive children in China, Elim Kids, that her kids’ lives were saved.
5. The hardest part of raising children with HIV, she said, isn’t managing the disease, but the fear of the stigma causing exclusion from others.
(Picture via Elim Kids)
“Fear that my children will be disinvited from birthday parties,” she explained, “uninvited from gymnastics teams, kicked out of private school, and excluded and despised because of misinformation and baseless fear — as some others we know have been.”
“I was giddy from the relief that comes from authentically sharing your life,” she said, adding that she ignored the few negative comments and focused on the thoughtful moms who gave supportive advice.
“They encouraged me, invited us on play dates, and made me realize that our tribe is definitely out there,” she said. “They made my husband and I want to be braver.”
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