When we first started seriously considering adoption 2.5 years ago, I read a book about Ethiopia’s orphan crisis called “There Is No Me Without You.” Although the book is not specifically about HIV, God used it to burden our hearts for HIV+ children. At the time, we didn’t even know it was possible to adopt these kids. I did a lot of research and found that it was difficult, but possible. It  certainly wasn’t popular. International adoption has gained in popularity over the past few years, but the children who are most sought after for adoption are almost universally young and healthy. Most adoption programs even have waiting lists for such children. Meanwhile, children over the age of 5 or 6, and those with special needs wait in orphanages, or worse yet, on the streets because orphanages are full.

Among these are HIV+ orphans, who are perhaps most vulnerable of all. Access to medical treatment may be limited and care is often lacking.  A recent study has shown that even in orphanages where care is good and there is access to life-saving antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), HIV+ children fare much worse than those who grow up in families. When these children reach adulthood, the stigma of the HIV keeps them from finding employment or community. Many end up on the streets, where they fall into crime, drug addiction, alcoholism, and prostitution. The cycle continues and another generation of HIV+ children is born, often with parents unable to care for them.

Yet when adopted into families where there is love, stability, and access to medical care, these same children can thrive emotionally and physically. They enjoy close to normal life expectancies and pose no risk to those around them. They go to school, play sports, get married, and have children.

Thankfully in these last couple of years, awareness of HIV among adoptive families has grown tremendously and many, many Ethiopian HIV+ children have found families. When we finally determined last month that we were ready to begin our adoption process, we found that neither of the agencies we had considered working with had young HIV+ children available for adoption. We were thrilled to hear that so many of these kids are finding families, but we knew from the beginning that we wanted to adopt a waiting child. With all of the orphans in the world waiting for families, it didn’t make sense for us to go on a waiting list for one of them to come available. So we began searching for other countries and programs where there were young HIV+ children waiting for families, and thanks to Bethany at Positively Orphaned, we came to Eastern Europe. I’ll share more of what I’ve learned about the country we have chosen and the HIV situation there soon, but I think this is enough for today.