‘My HIV child is playing with your child, and you don’t know it’

By Drum Digital
24 September 2014

A photojournalist and mother of two has decided to keep her child’s HIV-positive status a secret, fearing the ignorance and stigma associated with the virus.

“My HIV child is playing with your child, and you don’t know it,” Jenn Mosher wrote on the Scary Mommy blog.

The photojournalist and mother of two has decided to keep her child’s HIV-positive status a secret, fearing the ignorance and stigma associated with the virus.

Three of her friends have died from HIV-related illnesses, and Mosher and her husband decided to adopt a child with the virus.

“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,” she told Buzzfeed News.

They adopted two children from the Elim Kids organisation based in China, which works with HIV-positive children. “We want to provide HIV-affected children with love, care and hope through family, medication and education,” the organisation’s website says.

“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,” Mosher writes.

“Because of the ignorance and stigma that’s been associated with HIV, brave people have fought hard for the legal right to lie by omission about their HIV status.”

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.

Helping your child understand HIV

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. Aids stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. This is the late stage of HIV infection. HIV is the virus that causes the disease Aids.

The HI virus destroys part of the immune system by affecting the T lymphocytes (T cells), which are white blood cells. T cells are known as “fighter” cells, and help the body fight germs and diseases.

It takes many years for the virus to damage enough T cells so a person becomes sick enough and develops Aids.

Different medications can allow HIV-positive people to stay relatively healthy and symptom-free for many years. These are called antiretrovirals, and allow people to live significantly longer.

There are about 40 million people in the world living with HIV or Aids. Of these, 37 million are adults and 2,5 million children.

CONTRACTING HIV

HIV is spread by sexual contact, sharing needles or syringes, from a pregnant woman to her unborn child or during blood transfusions.

Certain body fluids from an HIV-positive person can transmit HIV. These are blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluid, vaginal fluid and breast milk.

You can’t get HIV from riding the school bus or visiting the home of someone who has HIV. You also can’t get the virus by holding that person’s hand.

HIV isn’t spread by air or water, insects, saliva, sweat, tears, sharing dishes, hugging or toilet seats.

HIV/Aids in South Africa

South Africa has the highest prevalence of HIV/Aids in the world, with 6,4 million people living with HIV and 270 000 HIV-related deaths recorded in 2011.

Right to privacy

Every South African has a right to privacy, and this includes keeping your HIV status private. HIV/Aids isn’t a notifiable disease, and people who are HIV positive can’t be forced to disclose their status to anyone. (This is except for certain circumstances, such as people applying for jobs in the South African National Defence Force, the National Intelligence Agency or the Secret Service.)

For more information, go to Aids Foundation of South Africa or aids.gov.

-Megan Bursey

EXTRA SOURCES: AIDS.ORG.ZA, AIDS.GOV, MG.CO.ZA, MEDIAAIDS.ORG

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