Positively Adopted

Life with children who have HIV

Charissa's Family

I suppose adoption was laid on my heart at an early age. Having been born to missionary parents, I spent much of my childhood on the mission field in Latin America. I remember visiting orphanages with my parents and crying all the way home over all the little children who didn't have parents. Little did I know what an impact that would have on my future. 


I grew up, married a wonderful man, and we had four children together, knowing that we would eventually adopt somebody. That somebody was a frail little Ukrainian girl with Down Syndrome, unable to even sit up or hold her own bottle at the age of 4. That paved the way to our second adoption, a little boy with Down Syndrome, and finally our little HIV angel. Our tiny little girl was affected tremendously by her birth mother's prenatal drug and alcohol abuse, being born 13 weeks premature with a cleft palate, fetal alcohol syndrome, failure to thrive, and eventually needing a feeding tube. And to top it all of, of course, she is HIV+. How she ever survived those first few years in the orphanage we do not know! But Zoya means "life", and live is exactly what she does. 


The first time we laid eyes on her, she was so sickly and pale, weighing only 19 pounds. She was 5 1/2 years old. But she exuded life and love and energy. When the caretakers were getting her dressed up to meet us for the first time, she asked, "Is today the day I am getting a mommy and a daddy?" We have been her parents for over two years now. We have had many hospital visits and some hard times getting this girl healthy, for sure! I have shed many tears, prayed many prayers, and worried so much over this little girl. But I am pleased to say that today her cleft palate is repaired, she weighs a healthy 42 pounds, her HIV is well controlled, and we are making great strides to wean her from her feeding tube. 


People ask what it's like to parent a child with HIV? Well I can honestly say that it rarely even crosses my mind anymore, especially since her other health issues have taken priority. 


  • Having a background as a registered nurse, I knew HIV adoption was not a risk to our family...

but deep down I feared we would lose friends as a result of the unusual path we had chosen. On the contrary, we have gained many friends as a result of having Zoya in our lives. If we have lost any friends, I guess I haven't noticed! Zoya is a tender and compassionate child, always drawn to the most hurting person in the room. She has a gift of knowing when someone needs a hug or a cheerful handshake. She has taught us much about love and life, and we are sure glad we didn't let any fears get in our way of saying 'yes' to her!


-Charissa & Family