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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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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.

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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






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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

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So, what effect does this have on our children? Does it unintentionally cause us to be more jaded with our interactions involving others? For some the answer may be a resounding "no." But as we look deeper into the situation, we often find that through survival our interactions with others have changed and we may not even realize exactly how much we are projecting on those around us.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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