AIDS And Adoption – Part 1: Can I Adopt If I Am HIV-Positive?

Published: Sep 30, 2009 1:18 pm
AIDS And Adoption – Part 1: Can I Adopt If I Am HIV-Positive?

For many HIV positive couples who are considering parenthood, it may be a challenging and unpredictable process. Conceiving a child can lead to the possibility of transmitting the virus to the fetus. The virus also can be transmitted to the other partner if only one is HIV-positive.

An alternative solution for many facing this dilemma is adoption. However, even if couples are certain this is the right choice for them, some adoption agencies see HIV as a red flag to disqualify prospective couples from adopting.

In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed to insure that those with disabilities were not discriminated against in employment, public service, public accommodations, and telecommunications. This law protects individuals with HIV who are both asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) and symptomatic. While it is unconstitutional for adoption agencies to disqualify prospective adopters solely on an HIV diagnosis, they are allowed to reject the applicant if other factors exist that determine the prospective parents are unqualified.

Ann Wrixon, executive director of the Independent Adoption Center of Los Angeles, said that her agency has successfully worked with HIV-positive individuals who have been rejected by other agencies.

Wrixon believes that other adoption agencies may reject potential adopters upon hearing of their disease because they “are not educated about HIV and make the assumption that birthparents would be upset [if their child were adopted by an HIV-positive couple].”

At the Independent Adoption Center, all prospective adopters are required to get a medical evaluation from their physician(s) indicating the status of their health. If either one of the prospective parents has HIV, they will need a letter from their physician stating their prognosis and also indicating they are healthy enough to adopt.

Wrixon said that her agency conducts open adoptions. This allows the birthparents and adopting parents to have contact with one another during the adoption process. They can also mutually select each other.

While at first birthparents may be hesitant to chose an HIV-positive individual for their child, the Independent Adoption Center explains how the present medical treatments for HIV have greatly improved their quality of life and prognosis. In most cases birthparents will not object.

Catholic Charities USA, another adoption agency that provides pregnancy counseling and adoption services, said a couple will not be disqualified to adopt if one or both people have HIV. Instead, the agency takes into consideration the person’s age, progression of the disease, and other factors to determine parenting abilities.

The National Center for Adoption Law and Policy, according to its Web site, is an organization that seeks to improve the law, policies, and practices associated with child protection and adoption.

Executive director Denise St. Clair is not aware of any state laws that require HIV testing be conducted before adoption, although some agencies may require medical examinations before adopting.

“There is not a blanket law that prohibits someone with HIV from adopting,” she said. “Adoption is a very individualized process and factors may be different in every situation. [Adoption agencies] want to make sure that everything is done in the best interest of the child.”

St. Clair added that an adoption agency may unlawfully discriminate, which can often be hard to substantiate because of all the factors involved in making the decision.

Adopters choosing to participate in open versus closed adoption may also face different outcomes. A closed adoption is one where no contact or exchange of information occurs between birthparents and those adopting.

While the Independent Adoption Center has found success with open adoptions, others considering open adoptions may not experience the same successes. Birthparents may unfairly reject a potential adopter because he/she is HIV-positive. It is uncertain whether the rejection is based on discrimination or their ability to be an effective parent due to their medical condition.

Those considering international adoptions may face an outright rejection based on their medical diagnosis. International agencies do not have to comply with U.S. laws and some countries will not adopt children to those with HIV. For same-sex couples with HIV looking to adopt, the issue may become even more complicated as same-sex marriage and adoption is not lawful in every state.

For HIV-positive individuals who decide adoption is the right choice for them, the process can be challenging but rewarding. Available resources include The Independent Adoption Center, which is licensed in California and can help prospective adopters in all 50 states. The National Center for Adoption Law and Policy can also advise people on legal issues regarding adoption.

For more information on adopting children or legal guidance relating to adoption, visit The Independent Adoption Center or The National Center for Adoption Law and Policy, respectively. Additionally, part 2 of this series, “AIDS and Adoption – Part 2: Adopting an HIV-Positive Child” discusses adoption of HIV-positive babies.

Photo by Carin Araujo on Wikipedia – some rights reserved.
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  • Gary G said:

    Hey, we went through foster parenting first, which is monitored by the state, and they do not descriminate based on HIV status. Then we asked for a “permanent placement” foster kid, which is a child that will NOT go back to his/her birth family. Once you foster that child, you have first right to adopt. Which we did! Three times! God gives you what you can handle, you know… GG

  • Beacon Staff said:


    Thank you very much for your comment and the information. Please feel free to share any additional tips or information from your experiences, for prospective HIV-positive parents who wish to adopt.

  • Griz said:

    I am scared talking on this sight- how do I trust . I …. Can’t do this I’m to scared!!!