Intl (MNN) — How much do you really know about HIV/AIDS? An estimated 27% of Americans would prefer not to work closely with a woman infected with HIV. One report indicated 21% of UK respondents living with the disease were denied health care and had experienced verbal harassment or assault.
"One of the biggest hurdles for our global response to AIDS is psychological," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in a 2008 article carried by The Washington Times. "Stigma is the chief reason the AIDS epidemic continues to devastate societies around the world."
Stigma makes life especially difficult for children orphaned by AIDS. They're often born with HIV, causing them to be shunned by their communities. Sometimes they're denied access to schooling or healthcare, and AIDS orphans are often left to fend for themselves. Bethany Christian Services helps AIDS orphans worldwide through adoption services and child care efforts like feeding, schooling, and medical care.
Bethany's Sara Ruiter says a new partnership is helping them get more kids with HIV/AIDS adopted.
"Project HOPEFUL is a wonderful organization that we're just so excited to be partnering with," Ruiter said. "We've already seen several families inquire about certain kids in our programs."
Through education, encouragement, and assistance, Project HOPEFUL enables families and individuals to advocate for and adopt children with HIV/AIDS. They've steadily increased awareness about adopting kids with HIV/AIDS, and although the partnership only began this past summer, they've already referred numerous families to Bethany for adoption services.
"Continuing to educate and bring awareness to adoptive families…so we can continue to decrease discrimination and stigma, is probably one of the most important things we want to do," stated Ruiter.
Adopting a child with HIV/AIDS can be an especially big step because in the West, HIV-positive kids are sometimes treated as "modern-day lepers." Many families lack awareness of the issue, Ruiter said, and hesitate to bring a positive child into their household. That's why they created the HIV Toolkit, full of resources that unpack the issue for families considering the adoption of a positive child.
"It's not a decision that one should go into lightly; it's certainly not something that's for every family," said Ruiter. "But this toolkit gives families a really good context of the issue."
Bethany is still seeking "forever homes" for approximately a dozen infected children. Click here to check out their adoption services within the U.S. or here for information about international adoption. Pray for loving homes for children infected with HIV.
The faith community worldwide plays a huge role in caring for people who are either infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. Bethany has several social service programs in place throughout the world, including family development, community development projects, foster care, and domestic adoption.
"Praying for those things would be a huge blessing for us."
You can become an advocate for AIDS orphans within your community. Click here to work with Project HOPEFUL.