“After having been diagnosed with PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome] at a young age I was told it would be hard to conceive. So most of my life I went on thinking how hard it would be to have children. After being diagnosed with HIV at age 26, still no children, I figured any glimmer of hope was now out the window. Even my family not knowing the facts didn’t think it was wise for me to try to have children. I've told myself I didn't want kids because it was easier with everything that seemed to be against me but deep down and knowing the little chance of passing HIV to my child I say why not! I know the love and wisdom I can pass on, so I absolutely welcome the possibility of one day being called mom!”
Fort Myers, Florida
“I've said for years that when I was born, I skipped the ‘fathering’ gene. I have never once in my life, not even for a nano-second, wanted to have a child. And I'm glad I missed that gene—it's been difficult enough just to take care of myself, let alone taking full responsibility for raising another human being for at least 18 years. My having HIV has only intensified my aversion to having a ‘family.’"
San Francisco, California
“I was married and had an 18-month-old son when I was exposed to HIV. Four and a half months later, I was given my HIV diagnosis in 1994. I opted to start meds right away to keep my immune system healthy as long as possible. My husband and I gave up the idea of having another child. Taking protease inhibitors meant an increase in blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, further making a second child seem an impossible dream.
In 2000, I found myself pregnant and made an appointment with my HIV doc to decide whether to terminate the pregnancy, as my husband insisted. My doc said at age 34 I had a higher percent chance of a baby with Down syndrome than HIV, since I had been virally suppressed for so long. Happy to say she is 19 and HIV-negative.”
West New York, New Jersey
“I acquired HIV after having my last born in 2000. Currently, I am an HIV/AIDS counselor based in Kenya for the past 20 years. In my interaction with HIV-positive patients, many don't want to give birth as they believe the kids may die immediately. And some are always depressed in such a way they don't want to hook up. But since then my wife and I went for counseling therapy and we have been living together happily. I even quit my job to become a permanent professional HIV counselor in my area.”
John Mrima Tsuma
“Having HIV absolutely affected my decision to have a family. It doesn’t matter if you are defined or labeled as gay or straight or other. A family is a precious thing as long as there is compassion, love, and understanding. I decided not to have a family as I was diagnosed early on, and adoption for me was not possible. Now in my fifties, I see positive people thriving as good parents, and I’m proud of them.”
“This is a very timely question, as my partner and I are about to complete our classes to become certified foster parents. Very early on in my relationship with my partner, we discussed what our long-term goals were, including having children. And, fortunately, we both shared the same goal of one day growing our family.
Our goal to become certified foster parents is to eventually adopt. And my HIV was not an obstacle when we decided to pursue this goal. Instead, as a person who has been living with HIV for over a decade, I believe I am better equipped at loving, accepting, and supporting a child who may also suffer from a stigmatized illness.
Lastly, at the beginning of our relationship, I decided to disclose my HIV status to my partner. We made it a goal since to get routinely checked and make sure we both stay healthy. And to this day, I still maintain my undetectable status and he is still HIV-negative. As a result, this has allowed us to have peace of mind to plan ahead and go after big goals; in this case, adopt!”
Josué E. Hernández
Orange County, California
“As a gay man in my 20s, I was approached by my lesbian friends to father a child, but after I tested positive back in 1994, I didn’t want to transmit the virus to a child or a female for that matter, so I just learned to cope with the idea that I wouldn’t father any kids, and I bought pet fishes and birds as my companion. But I’m approaching 50, and kids aren’t on my radar, especially in these trying times.”
Jack R. Miller
New York, New York
“It has affected me very much. I was diagnosed in 1984, and prospects for the future were not good. So I decided to not take the risk, fearful of transmitting the virus to the father or to a baby. Today, I see many beautiful families of people living with HIV. I adore seeing this, and wish I had done it. Well, that's life.”