Change the World

9 Stories That Celebrate the Experience of Gay Fathers Living with HIV

This World AIDS Day, we dug into our archives to find 9 stories that bring awareness to and celebrate the experience of gay dads living with HIV

December 1st is World AIDS Day — a day to unite in our collective fight to end the epidemic, remember those we've lost, and bring much needed attention and money to support those who continue to live with HIV and AIDS. For us at Gays With Kids, it's also a time to lift up and celebrate the experiences of fathers, so many of who never thought they'd see the day where they would be able to start families.

Towards that end, we've rounded up nine stories, family features and articles from our archives that celebrate the experience of gay fathers living with HIV — the struggles, triumphs and everything in between.


One Dad's Message to Others Living with HIV: You Can Be a Parent, Too

The first article was written by our co-founder, Brian Rosenberg, for Worlds Aids Day in 2006 with a powerful message for others living with HIV: yes, you can become a parent. Brian writes:

"I've been living with HIV for close to 30 years. I don't need to wait until World AIDS Day to reflect on the tremendous impact HIV and AIDS have had on my life.

I received confirmation of my HIV status in January of 1991, though I know I became positive in March or April of 1988. It was my first year out of college, and I decided to celebrate my birthday by finally acting upon the incredible urges that had been building inside of me slowly but steadily for several years. Truth is, by then my desire to be with a man filled my thoughts just about every waking hour.

Read the article here.

A Brief History of Gay Times

Our second article shares the perspective of our other co-founder Ferd Van Gameren:

"In 1994, my then-boyfriend Brian and I drove to New York City for Gay Pride.

We had met the year before at Mike's Gym, an almost exclusively gay gym in Boston's South End. A friend of Brian's somehow knew I was from Holland; that's how I believe my nickname Tulip came about.

(Come to think of it: Brian used to say that he'd prefer tulips on his organ to a rose on his piano.)

Read the article here.

Sperm Washing: What Every HIV-Positive Gay Man Should Know

Next up is an important round-up of information on sperm washing — a process that allows men living with HIV to become biological dads:

"Thanks to a procedure known as sperm washing, HIV-positive gay men can now safely reproduce, via surrogacy or other means, without passing the virus on to their gestational carrier or offspring. Here are the answers to five common questions HIV-positive gay men often ask about the procedure."

Read the article here.

On World AIDS Day, Gay Dads Talk About Being HIV Positive

Next up is our "World AIDS Day" feature story from the first year Gays With Kids opened its doors — 2014:

"They didn't think that they could do it.

The barriers were too high, the paths impossible to navigate. But they tried anyway. They are a special group: gay, HIV-positive dads. And these are their stories.

Forming a family as part of a same-sex couple or as as a single gay man is fraught with obstacles to begin with. But this group faces challenges far more daunting than navigating the adoption process, or finding a suitable surrogate, or working with the foster care system. These men are also dealing with a life-changing disease.

In honor of World AIDS Day, we're highlighting the stories of six gay dads who also have dealt with this singular health challenge. (The interviews were done in partnership with TheBody.com, a comprehensive online resource for people living with HIV/AIDS.)

While all of the dads' stories are different, the focus today is on their similarities. And there are many."

Read the article here.

Positively Dads

In 2015, we brought you the stories of several gay HIV positive dads — along with some advice for others living with HIV thinking of starting families.

"Aslan1 always believed he would be a father—if not with a partner, then by teaming up with one of his straight, single female friends. But "at the age of 36, I became infected with the [HIV] virus," he said. "I thought my whole world collapsed. Everything crashed with that. I believed that there would be no child." He was gay and single, living in a cosmopolitan city in his southern European country, when a female friend asked him to pair up to make a baby. He had heard that it could be done safely, but when he told her his HIV status, her reaction, he said somewhat morosely, was "very naturally, not very brave." Unwilling to face that rejection again, he spent years trying to bury his profound desire to parent."

Read the article here.

Family Spotlight: Rick, an HIV+ Gay Dad, and His Four Kids

In our founding year we also brought you the story of Rick Nadan — a gay man living with HIV who became a father through surrogacy.

"Rick Nadan went into the surrogacy process much like the average hopeful parent: financially prepared, emotionally ready and physically healthy.

But soon after he learned the gestational carrier who would carry his children was pregnant, the hopeful father learned he was HIV positive.

He had tested negative at the routine tests required for surrogacy in early December 2006. Weeks later, with pregnancy underway, he visited his doctor. "I felt really sick and it wasn't going away," he says. "I went to the doctor and he suggested doing a routine HIV test."

Read the article here.

LGBT+ UK Parenting Organization Has a Message for HIV Positive Individuals

Next is an article detailing the "Proud Parenting" campaign, a UK-based LGBTQ parenting organization that serves as a resource for HIV positive people hoping to become parents.

"Today is World AIDS Day. In honor of the day, P3, a UK LGBT+ parenting organization (Proud Professional Parents), are launching their "Proud Parenting" campaign which provides HIV positive individuals who wish to become parents with a package of educational materials about the many possibilities available to them - from traditional conception to adoption.

Read the article here.

One Surrogate's Experience Carrying Twins for Gay and HIV+ Intended Parents

Next is a post written by a surrogate from Circle Surrogacy who carried twins for an HIV positive intended dad and his husband as part of the Special Program for Assisted Reproduction (SPAR) program.

"I came to surrogacy because I have been drawn to help others my whole life. Because of a medical condition, my sister is unable to have her own children. I witnessed first-hand the painful questions young women are asked all too often: "When are you going to have kids?" Hearing my sister reply, "I won't be" helped shape me into who I am today, and my decision to become a surrogate.

I was looking for something exceptional in my surrogacy, but I didn't know exactly what that was. When I applied to be a surrogate, I had never thought of all the different walks of life waiting and hoping for someone to come along and help create a family for them."

Read the article here.

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News

World's First Sperm Bank Opens for HIV Positive Donors

Sperm Positive, started by three non-profits in New Zealand, hopes to end stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood

"Our donors have so much to give," say the promotional materials of a new sperm bank. "But they can't give you HIV."

The new sperm bank, Sperm Positive, launched on World Aids Day this year by three non-profits as a way to fight stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood. For years, scientists have known that those living with an undetectable level of HIV in their blood thanks to antiretroviral treatments can't transmit the virus through sex or childbirth. Yet discrimination and stigma persists.

The sperm bank exists online only, but will connect donors and those seeking donations with fertility banks once a connection is made on their site. Sperm Positive was started by three New Zealand non-profits — Body Positive, the New Zealand Aids Foundation and Positive Women Inc. — who hope the project will help disseminate science-backed education and information about HIV and parenthood.

Already, three HIV positive men have signed up to serve as donors, including Damien Rule-Neal who spoke to the NZ Herald about his reasons for getting involved in the project. "I want people to know life doesn't stop after being diagnosed with HIV and that it is safe to have children if you're on treatment," he told the Herald. "I've experienced a lot of stigma living with HIV, both at work and in my personal life that has come from people being misinformed about the virus."

We applaud the effort all around! To read more about our own efforts to end the stigma surround HIV and parenthood, check out our recent round-up of family profiles, resources, and expert advice that celebrate the experience of gay dads living with HIV here.

Change the World

Gay Couple Adopt HIV+ Baby Passed Over by 10 Other Families

Married Argentinian couple Damian Pighin and Ariel Vijarra opened their home to a 28-day-old baby when others wouldn't

A couple weeks ago, we brought you a touching story about a gay single dad who adopted a young girl with Down's syndrome who had been passed over by 20 other families.

Well, we're beginning to sense a heartwarming trend among gay men and their openness to kids who might be a little bit different. Recently, an HIV positive baby in Argentina named Olivia was adopted by a gay couple, Damian Pighin and Ariel Vijarra, when she was only 28 days old. The baby had reportedly been rejected by 10 other families who refused to adopt her because of her status.

According to Newsweek, one of the dads told local media: "As soon as I saw her, I felt she was part of my life. The connection was immediate. We held her in our arms, we gave her the bottle and she looked at us with her eyes wide open, without crying."

The couple is no stranger to helping "hard to place" kids find homes. They created a nonprofit organization called Acunar Familias, or "Cradle Families," which helps other couples adopt unwanted children.

Many in the LGBTQ community have faced rejection of their own, so it should come as little surprise that queer parents will provide loving homes when others won't — we guarantee this won't the last story of its kind you'll read. But for now, check out more details on Newsweek.

Sponsored

One Surrogate's Experience Carrying Twins for Gay and HIV+ Intended Parents

Checking the "yes" box to serve as a surrogate in the Special Program for Assisted Reproduction (SPAR) program, she says, was one of the most rewarding decisions she's ever made

Photo credit: Cassandra Photo

In partnership with Circle Surrogacy. Written by a Circle surrogate who carried twins for an international gay couple in the SPAR program.

The word serendipity is such a magical word, and one that's rarely used. But so far, it's the best word I can think of to describe my surrogacy experience, carrying twins for a gay HIV positive couple in the SPAR program.

I came to surrogacy because I have been drawn to help others my whole life. Because of a medical condition, my sister is unable to have her own children. I witnessed first-hand the painful questions young women are asked all too often: "When are you going to have kids?" Hearing my sister reply, "I won't be" helped shape me into who I am today, and my decision to become a surrogate.

I was looking for something exceptional in my surrogacy, but I didn't know exactly what that was. When I applied to be a surrogate, I had never thought of all the different walks of life waiting and hoping for someone to come along and help create a family for them.

Saying "yes" to the Special Program for Assisted Reproduction (SPAR).

During the application process I was asked if I would consider carrying a baby for intended parents in SPAR. I initially checked off the "NO" box; originally, I wasn't interested in working with someone in the SPAR program who was HIV+. Honestly, I did not fully understand what I read about it, and it seemed complicated and frightening. Checking off "No" seemed easier. But I sat there for a moment, trying to open up my mind. I thought to myself, 'What's the harm in checking "Yes" and getting more information?' Becoming a surrogate was going to be the biggest learning experience of my life, and I wanted to be all in! I changed my answer to "Yes," which I now feel was serendipity.

Soon after submitting my application, I received my first intended parent profile almost immediately. I was so excited I could burst! There were names and faces behind all this paperwork—an international gay couple in the SPAR program. Wow!

Their pictures were happy and handsome. At first, I felt a little overwhelmed. For some reason I expected a cookie-cutter heterosexual couple from Iowa or another U.S. state. My husband and I discussed the couple's profile extensively.

I had so much going through my head. What if these intended parents got sick from HIV and were not able to take care of their babies? I wondered what their lives looked like day to day, what medications they were taking, and their overall health. Most of these questions came from my lack of knowledge of HIV, and the advancements that have been made over the past few decades. So I did more research.

My husband and I learned that men in the SPAR program must be actively treating their HIV. My IPs were just as "healthy" as anyone else I could carry for. We also spoke with Dr. Kiessling about the science behind the program, and how it has been made possible that a man can be a bio dad without passing on HIV to the carrier of the baby. Dr. Kiessling explained the process of making all of this possible and safe; she is an expert in her field and has devoted her life to this research and development. With that knowledge, I felt completely comfortable that I was not at risk.

When we Skyped with our intended parents, I never once thought about SPAR or HIV. These two men were intriguing. It came down to the fact that I felt that they should have the same right as anyone else to experience parenthood. Both my husband and I knew they were the right match for us. From then on, I can honestly say joining SPAR became a non-issue for me.

SPAR didn't define the dads, parenthood did.

During my journey, I only shared with my husband and a few close friends of mine that my intended parents were HIV positive. After I first met my intended parents, I really never thought about it. I did not want HIV to define them. I wanted to get to know them as soon-to-be dads. I wanted them to have a surrogacy experience just as anyone else would. This is the most exciting time of their lives and one of the most exciting times of mine! I did not feel like it was my business to share personal information about my IPs to others. No one else goes around introducing people as a medical diagnosis so why should they be treated that way? We just felt joy!

While I never focused on the fact that my IPs were HIV+, I felt more connected to them because they were in the SPAR program. I knew they didn't have the same number of gestational carrier match options that gay men who weren't part of the SPAR program had. It felt even more gratifying for me to be able to be the person who helped make their dreams come true.

Love is love.

I wholeheartedly believe that checking the "Yes" box was a defining moment in my life. I expanded my mind to something so pure and brand new. The concept, however, was one that was very familiar to me: Love is love, and everyone deserves to have their wildest dreams come true. These two men who walked into my life now have two flawless, healthy baby boys and will forever be a family.

I still keep in touch with the dads, and they send me photos and updates of the babies. Even though I carried their babies, I'm the one who is grateful that they came into our lives. I learned so much on my surrogacy journey, and grew as a person, and I have them to thank.

***

If you'd like more information on Circle's SPAR program, please visit our page on SPAR parenting






.

Gay Dad Family Stories

These Gay Dads Lost Everything After Hurricane Dorian — Except Hope

The couple, who live in "Hope Town" in the Bahamas, lost everything after suffering a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian this past summer.

Max Bethel-Jones, 52, had traveled to more than 120 countries over the last 30 years working with the United Nations, but had never been to the Bahamas — in 2015, he decided to apply for a private teaching job as a special needs teacher in Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama.

Just weeks after his arrival, he'd get a whole lot more than another pin in his map of visited countries when he attended a social event at Freeport Rugby. "My object was to ogle the local male talent but several women had other ideas," he said. One woman was particularly insistent, he said, but after a couple of drinks she got the hint that he batted for the other rugby team. "She promptly told me there was someone I should meet."

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News

Gay Dads Told One Must Identify as 'Mother' to Enroll in Daycare

The Israeli gay dads told one must identify as mother — like a "normal couple" — in order to receive financial assistance for daycare.

Israeli dads Guy Sadak Shoham and Chai Aviv Shoham were trying to enroll their two-year-old twins in daycare when they were told by a government official that one would need to identify as the "mother" in order to be cleared.

According to Out Magazine, the couple was attempting to apply for financial aid to help pay for the costs of preschool when a government bureaucrat called them to discuss their eligibility.

"I understand that you are both fathers and understand that you both run a shared household, but there is always the one who is more dominant, who is more the mother," the government said, according to an interview on the Israel site Ynet (translated by Out Magazine). "I am just asking for a written statement in your hand which of you is the mother. From the point of view of the work, which works less than the father. Like a normal couple."

The official, apparently, said she was beholden to rules set for in the Ministry of Economy.

"It is mostly sad and a little disturbing," one of the dads told Ynet. "These are concepts that we consider the past. We do not necessarily come up with allegations against this representative, she is ultimately subject to the guidelines and as she said, they are the state. It is also sad that the state's definition of a mother is someone who works less and is at home with the children, and that we must choose which of us meets that definition."

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, fortunately, issued an apology following the incident, and promised to update its protocols. "We will emphasize that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs practices explicitly treat all types of families and grant equal rights to all," the ministry wrote in a statement, an apology that was called "insufficient" by Ohad Hizki, the director-general of the National LGBT Task Force.

"The Ministry of Labor and Welfare must sharpen its procedures immediately to prevent recurrence of cases of this kind, as other public organizations have been able to do," he said.

Read more about this story on Out Magazine.

Gay Dad Life

Top 10 Reasons You Should Date a Gay Dad

Jay Turner lays out the top 10 reasons you should consider dating a single gay dad

We're gay dads. Many of us were married to women, and for various reasons we eventually found ourselves single and looking for companionship from another man. Life is a little more complicated for us because we have kids. But that shouldn't deter you from seeking a relationship with a gay dad. In fact, there are many reasons why we make better partners than men without children. We are generally more mature, responsible, and emotionally available. We are also better communicators.

Here are the top ten reasons why you should date a gay dad:

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Change the World

'Homosexuality is Wrong' Utah Teacher Tells Boy Who Gave Thanks for His Two Adoptive Dads

The substitute teacher went on to say two men living together is "sinful." She was fired shortly after.

To anyone with a heart, the moment should have done nothing more than bring a tear to the eye. Last week, just before the Thanksgiving break, a substitute teacher in a fifth grade class in Cedar Hills, Utah — just south of Salt Lake City — asked her students to name something they were thankful for this holiday season.

"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press — no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

Louis also revealed that the moment may not have come to light were it not for three of his son's classmates, who told the principal about the teacher's bigoted comments. His son, Daniel, didn't want to report the incident for fear of getting the teacher into trouble.

Louis expressed thanks that the staffing company responded as quickly as it did following the incident — and also stressed that his neighbors and community have rallied behind he and his family in the days afterward, offering support. He wanted to dispel stereotypes that Utah, because of its social conservatism and religiosity, was somehow inherently prejudiced.

"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar — many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here — and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

All that aside, let's also get back to what should have been nothing more than a heartwarming moment — Daniel, a fifth grade boy, giving thanks to finally being legally adopted into a loving family.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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