Friday, May 06, 2011

Birthmother's Day & World AIDS Orphans Day

Tomorrow is Birthmother's Day. And World AIDS Orphans Day. While these two events are not explicitly linked in our family, for many, many families, they are.

Birthmother's Day was created in 1990 by a group of Seattle-area birthmoms who wished to acknowledge the incredible effects of birthmotherhood on their lives, to honor themselves and the choices they made. It is celebrated the Saturday before Mother's Day, to recognize that birthmothers are first mothers. Today, it has grown to be a time to honor birthmothers by all those who have been affected by adoption.

World AIDS Orphans Day was founded in 2002 by the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights (FXB). It is recognized on May 7 each year, in an effort to draw attention to and advocate for the more than 15+ million children orphaned by AIDS (estimates are that the number reached 25 million in 2010, with millions more unaccounted for in India, Russia, and China). The majority of these children reside in Sub-Saharan Africa, where access to medications preventing maternal-fetal transmission of HIV are minimal, and where ARV therapy- especially for children- is hard to access.

There is no denying the fact that HIV/AIDS has contributed immensely, and will continue to contribute to the growing number of orphans worldwide. Sadly, children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, even if uninfected, often face stigmas within their communities that prevent them from finding loving, permanent homes. And children who are infected, in addition to stigmas within their community and country, are often more difficult to place into international adoptive families, due to stigmas in receiving nations.

I firmly believe that the best way to prevent children becoming orphans is by keeping birthfamilies intact. For many in Sub-Saharan Africa and around the world, this would be possible with access to ARV therapy  for mothers and children, and through support for those living with HIV/AIDS.

I encourage you to become involved in the fight for access to care for mothers and children. Do something to honor the birthmothers who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS. For each person, this act will be different, but here are some ideas:

  • Become educated about HIV/AIDS. Know the facts. Don't contribute to the stigma of HIV.
  • Once you know the fact, share the facts with others. The only way to fight stigma and misinformation is through truth.
  • Join the movement to increase access to HIV/AIDS care for mothers and children. Help prevent the number of HIV/AIDS orphans from growing. Go to the FXB website and find an event, donate, petition world leaders, share your ideas, and get involved.
  • Support family preservation efforts that provide access to health care, including HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment care.
  • Sponsor an HIV+ child- in Ethiopia, you can do that through AHOPE
  • Consider adopting an HIV+ child. Learn more about that at Project Hopeful or From HIV to Home.
  • Share what you are doing. Here. On your blog. On Facebook or Twitter. In an email. With friends. At church. At your child's school. Tell people about the difference you can make in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and the battle to keep families intact.

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