AIDS STRIKES PARENTS
When AIDS Strikes Parents- TIME, November 1, 1993
Who will care for a new generation of orphans - and youngsters soon to become orphans?
TWELVE-YEAR-OLD NICOLE KNOWS more about AIDS than most children her age. She doesn't have the disease or carry the virus, but she has felt its deadly sting just the same. AIDS has taken both her parents. "I was nine years old when my mother died." Nicole (not her real name) calmly begins her story. "She told me that my father did drugs and died Of AIDS, and that she got it from him." Nicole's grownup demeanor disappears, however, when she starts to read aloud a letter she wrote in the year after her mother died: "Dear Mom ... I miss you so much. That day at the funeral I just looked at you, and I saw someone else in the coffin. I was saying to myself, 'That cant be my mother.' She is still in the hospital ... I knew people had to die. But I never thought about you dying."
[ A nine-year-old boy lost both parents to AIDS drew his mother in heaven, hovering over his new family on earth. ] Nicole's story is becoming an all too common one in the age Of AIDS. At least 30,000 children in the U.S. have lost one or both parents to the scourge, and over the next seven years that number is expected to at least triple. Within this group, Nicole is relatively lucky. She lives with her aunt on Manhattan's Lower East Side, does well in school, and dreams of becoming a pediatrician. But perhaps half the AIDS orphans could wind up living in the streets or falling into an overloaded foster-care system. "We're seeing some 3,000 children in the Chicago area who will need placement very soon." says Cathy Blanford of the Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. "I expect the numbers will grow way beyond what anyone can imagine."
No one thought much about this dilemma back when AIDS was considered a disease of unmarried homosexual men. Now women are the fastest-growing segment of the AIDS population. From 1991 to 1992 the number of new cases among women jumped 10%, compared with 2.5% for men. Some of these women have husbands or boy-friends who are bisexual; others pick up the virus because they or their lovers are drug addicts who use contaminated needles. The majority have children.
Although the toll is highest in drug-ridden ghettos, this is not just a big-city phenomenon. Rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, best known for Amish festivals and shoofly pie, has seen its drug problems increase as people have moved in from poor neighborhoods in New York who have either lost or are about to lose a parent to the disease. Often, infected mothers leave large cities and return to places where they grew up, where aunts and grandmothers can take in the children. "Perhaps half the women we see have come home to die." says Jacquelyn Claymore of the AIDS Service Agency in Raleigh, North Carolina.
In the Bronx, Michael, 11, and Jose, 9, learned from their mother that she is infected with the deadly virus. It is hard enough for a child to lose a parent. But when AIDS is the killer, the pain is all the more profound. Since most of the infected mothers are single parents, no father is around to fill the void. If the mother's drug use had caused her family to spurn her, relatives may be unwilling to care for her kids. Moreover, the stigma of AIDS causes many families to keep the cause of death quiet. The surviving children are isolated in their shame. "If they know, they usually don't tell anybody," Claymore notes. "Not their best friend, not their teachers, not anybody." The silence takes its toll. With no acceptable outlet for their rage or grief, children often cause trouble in school. Boys especially, may run afoul of the police. Some teenagers turn to indiscriminate sex or shooting drugs- as though they are daring the AIDS virus to do to them what it did to their parents.
But the cycle does not have to repeat itself. A growing number of community organizations are trying to prevent further tragedy by starting support groups for children orphaned or about to be orphaned by AIDS. Over the past three years, counselors at the St. Francis Center in Washington DC have helped the kids cope with depression, fear of abandonment, and the lifelike visions some have of their dead parents. "The teenagers, in particular, are caught in a squeeze," says Dottie Ward-Wimmer, a nurse at St. Francis who specializes in grief counseling. "They're older. They're smarter. They know that if their mother had cancer, people would feel sorry for them rather than shun them." Professionals at the Henry Street Settlement in New York City have found that if youngsters talk with one another about what they are going through, they are less likely to fall into self-destructive behavior. They also have an easier time adjusting to their new family.
Social and health agencies are trying to reach more AIDS sufferers before they pass away so that their children can be better prepared. That's not easy. Denial and shame are sometimes so strong that some parents never admit, to officials or anyone else, that they have AIDS. Marina Alvarez is not one of them. She founded a support group in the Bronx, New York, for mothers like herself who are HIV Positive. "Information dispels fear," she says. "I can't say that my sons are absolutely O.K. with my illness. I don't think anybody's ever O.K. with a life-threatening illness. But they don't live in shame."
About half the ailing parents die before they designate anyone to take custody of their children. To improve that statistic, both Illinois and New York have enacted laws in the past year that allow parents to name a standby guardian to care for their children on a temporary basis. That way parents with AIDS do not have to give up permanent custody every time they go into the hospital, and they can know who will take in their children after death comes. "We try to match people up while the birth parents are still healthy enough to make good decisions." says Blanford of her Chicago program. "It helps the children make the transition because they have a sense from their parents that this is O.K." [ BA Editor-- Steve-- This will insure that AIDS is passed casually. It is deadly! ]
After the guardians take over comes the hard part. The orphans need counseling, and their new families, which may have doubled in size, often require temporary financial and housing support. "For many families a little help at a critical time can make a big difference." says Carol Levine of the AIDS Orphans Project in New York. Otherwise, the newly blended families can break apart under the strain, and the orphans end up in foster care.
Some social workers believe communities may have to open orphanages. But they envision institutions that are smaller and more homelike than the cheerless warehouses of old. Whatever the strategy, society will need to pay more attention to AIDS orphans. "In the next 10 years a lot of the families who are presently coping will not be able to do it any longer," Levine predicts. "There are not enough grandmothers to raise these children."
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BA Editor-- Steve-- There is a show-down coming with destiny. Spiritual laws are now in effect regarding sexual sin. US children will soon be running the streets without homes or parents, and many of them will be AIDS infected. 95%+ are promiscuous, and their friends with homes and families are the same-- from 5th grade onward in many cases. They are also the ones who serve your food in restaurants. They seldom wash after using the restroom, and cut themselves an average of six times per month as they prepare your food and set the table for you. What risks ought a saint to take presumptuously? Answer: Psalms 19:13, "Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins..."
Now, here is the African picture from recent news..... This story is chilling. Is Africa able to bring the world an AIDS drug, or are they just black jiggaboos who don't know up from down? The truth is, the World Health Organization wants Africa to die. Aspen Institute has called for the death of Africa so that the Aryan race can take over Africa, as Cecil Rhodes planned. Jimmy Carter's Global 2000 Report called for the reduction of the world's population by two billion, "by any means necessary." This rejection of a Kenyan invention may be far more an act of Aryan White Brotherhood racism, than true defective invention in Kenya.