Whose story is it? AP article on adopting HIV-positive children

During the five years I wrote Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir, I grappled daily with the question of how much of the story I was entitled to tell. After all, the book’s subject is the adoption of my daughter, Olivia, from Guatemala. Ultimately, I decided the story belonged to me, too, at least partially. As long as I kept the narrative from my point of view, I believed her privacy would be maintained. Foremost in my mind was the question, “When my daughter’s in high school, will she be okay reading this?” I can say with confidence that I believe she will.

That said, I also wanted to write the truth of intercountry adoption as I experienced it. A baby strapped in a stroller in front of a television set or kicking me away because I was her fourth mother-figure aren’t the ideal visuals to communicate, but that was what happened. Change can never be made if no one talks about reality, including the impact on children of prolonged foster or institutional care, or multiple caregiver placements.

I was reminded of the struggle between privacy and truth-telling as I read this Associated Press article by David Crary, More families adopting HIV-positive children. One of the children discussed was born in Guatemala. Do parents have the right to reveal their minor children’s HIV-positive status via an Associated Press article? Although there is absolutely nothing shameful about the disease, it might not be information a person necessarily wishes to share with the world at large.

I don’t know the answer, but my guess is that, like me, the parents in question hoped to normalize their family’s situation by being honest about it. Time will tell if our children feel the same.


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7 Responses to “Whose story is it? AP article on adopting HIV-positive children”

  1. cynthia rovero says:

    I admire you for telling it like it is for your adoption experience and how you perceive other parents, etc. story related to many touchy subjects is phenomenal. Many parents who keep silent on delicate issues they face find relief in knowing someone with tact is speaking out against injustices.

  2. Jessica says:

    We’re all trying to do our best, you know? That’s my view on people’s motivations. Change will never come if no one speaks up. Thanks for reading and responding, Cynthia.

  3. cynthia rovero says:

    very well said jessica, speaking out even to one another is very powerful in that we can be validated for our beliefs too.

  4. Jessica says:

    amen, cynthia. thanks, amiga.

  5. Jodie H says:

    I just came across your blog by googling “HIV positive adoption blogs.” I have been GRAPPLING with the issue of disclosing my newly adopted son’s HIV status every day for the last 10 months. He’s 6 years old and just came home last August – from South Africa (the home of 4 million orphans, 60% of which are HIV positive).

    My husband and I are leaning toward full disclosure simply because there are people who know. Every time he has a play date at a friend’s house, I disclose – and bring gloves and a mini first aid kit. I don’t legally have to disclose, but if there were an accident that produced lots of blood, I feel I have to give them information about universal precautions.

    So, as more individuals find out, and as these individuals tell friends and neighbors and other parents about my son’s HIV status, the web grows. And, as this web of here say grows, I’m not in charge of the information. If we disclose openly, I AM IN CHARGE OF THE INFO. I can dispell myths and stereotypes, I can calm fears. And, my son doesn’t have to feel ashamed, or like he’s hiding anything.

    I do think about his high school years, and whether he will be happy or sad about full disclosure. I don’t know the answer…

  6. Jessica says:

    Dear Jodie:

    Thank you for contacting me and sharing your story. As you indicate, this is an incredibly complicated issue which would challenge any family.

    I recommend you contact the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Program at Oakland Children’s Hospital, here in northern California. The program is long-established, with a strong counseling, educational, and outreach component. Oakland Children’s also has a renowned international adoption clinic so is experienced dealing with adoption-related health issues.

    Here is the link:


    I know they will be able to advise you. Please stay in touch.

  7. city mini stroller…

    [...]Whose story is it? AP article on adopting HIV-positive children « Mamalita – an adoption blog by Jessica O'Dwyer on Guatemalan adoption[...]…

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