June 11-17, 2012
American Christian couple adopts Taiwan’s youngest HIV-positive child
Reported by Lin Yi-ying
Written by Lydia Ma
“My hope is that one day, Taiwanese will be the ones adopting children with AIDS!” said Garden of Mercy CEO Chang Li-shu at a press conference on June 5, 2012 as her staff bid farewell to “Black Jewel”, the youngest HIV-positive child in Taiwan. A Christian couple living in Alaska had decided to adopt 4-year-old Black Jewel, along with his older brother and sister. The 3 children would soon be going to the USA to start a new life.
During this press conference, Chang underscored the plight of HIV-positive children in Taiwan who cannot find an adoptive family because of public misconceptions about AIDS and its transmission. Black Jewel’s attending physician from National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei City Department of Social Welfare Commissioner, Chiang Yi-wen, Black Jewel’s adoptive mother, and Chang were present at this press conference. Black Jewel was also seen playing with his favorite toys.
Born in 2008, Black Jewel was sent to Garden of Mercy when he was 3 months old. His father had died from a drug overdose while his mother had been imprisoned for drug possession. He became the youngest child with HIV in Taiwan. He subsequently received good medical care at Garden of Mercy but has yet to meet his birth mother.
Black Jewel does not know that he is ill; he only knows that he has to take a pink, syrupy, and sweet medication every day. Other than having to take medication every day, he is practically indistinguishable from other children of his age who love to play with toys, long to be loved, and look forward to playing with friends.
Black Jewel’s adoptive parents, Thomas and Michelle, already have 2 children, but they have been wanting to adopt a child for the last 10 years. Through the World Association for Children and Parents, they came to Taiwan in March 2012 with their son to meet Black Jewel and the family began to bond with him immediately.
“At first everyone kept telling me that it would be very hard to take care of a HIV-positive child. They told me to watch out for this and that, and so on. In the time I’ve been with Black Jewel, I’ve observed that the only thing he wants is love,” said Michelle. She added that her husband and her children have decided to give Black Jewel and his siblings a loving and friendly environment where they can grow into adults.
“We’re having a hard time letting him go!” said Chang with tears in her eyes as she cuddled Black Jewel and patted his face. “But I know that I must let him go because this is his only opportunity to have a brand new life.” She added that Black Jewel is very lucky compared to the other 26 HIV-positive children. “I believe that this story is filled with God’s mercy and care!” she said.
According to recent statistics, there are 20,000 people in Taiwan who are HIV-positive. Though the government began providing free HIV screening and treatment since 2005, there are nearly 2,000 new cases every year. With the help of early screening and treatment, the likelihood of HIV-positive infants developing full-blown AIDS has been greatly reduced.
There are currently 29 small children diagnosed with HIV in Taiwan and 3 have already died. He and another HIV-positive child are the only two HIV-positive children who have been adopted by foreigners. This trend is an indication that there remains serious bias against HIV-positive people and misperceptions about this disease in Taiwanese society.
Photo by Lin Yi-ying