When we decided to adopt from Ethiopia, Melissa Fay Greene's book There Is No Me Without You was one of the first books we read. In it, she chronicled the AIDS orphan crisis through the story of one Ethiopian woman who inadvertently opened her home and eventually an orphanage to shelter children whose parents were sick with or had died of AIDS.
I don't think it's possible to be involved in the world of Ethiopian adoption without developing a passion to see AIDS research continued. Today, when infected individuals are receiving ARVs and proper medical care, they are expected to live long and full lives in which HIV is just a chronic but manageable disease. In fact, as this New York Times article illustrates, the promises of a vaccine and a cure seem to be very real possibilities. Unfortunately, twenty-five percent of infected Americans don't even know they are HIV+ and countless individuals in developing nations don't have access to the drugs that keep this disease from being a death sentence. We all have to do our part not to become complacent about advocating for the funding of research and the distribution of aid.
Finally, having read about the stigma that many HIV+ individuals face - including the fact that it's often the most challenging part of their disease - I have to close with the traditional public service announcement that HIV is only transmitted through sexual contact, birth, breastfeeding, infected blood transfusions, and sharing intravenous drug equipment. It's a fragile virus and can't be caught through saliva, puke, pee, poop, biting, mosquitoes, drinking fountains, toilets, shared eating utensils, swimming pools, sweat, tears, or mucous.