Death sentence no more: hope for HIV

FRESNO, Calif.

Sloppy Joe night at the Twietmeyer's is always a hit! Especially when you have 13 mouths to feed. With seven kids of their own, the Twietmeyer's opened their home to six more from Ethiopia -- two with HIV.

"The truth of it is that these children can be adopted and live long, healthy lives and you're not going to catch it by loving them," Carolyn Twietmeyer, a mother who adopted two children with HIV, told Action News.

"Don't be scared. These kids need families," Kiel Twietmeyer, a father who adopted two children with HIV, told Action News.

Nine out of ten children with HIV are infected by their mother -- like Selah. When the Twietmeyer's went to Africa to adopt her, she was near death...11 years old and just 32 pounds, in stage four AIDS.

"I was really skinny and I was really sick," Selah Twietmeyer told Action News.

But now she's thriving. Today with twice daily medication, Selah's viral load is undetectable.

"HIV is nothing. It's nothing to be scared of," Selah said.

Thirty years ago someone diagnosed with AIDS had about a year to live, but thanks to improvements in antiretroviral therapy, doctors now classify AIDS as a chronic illness much like diabetes, which can be controlled with medication. Studies show the life expectancy of a person newly diagnosed with HIV has jumped from seven years to 24. Still there is no cure. But scientists are exploring two new possibilities: gene therapy to make cells resistant to HIV and therapeutic vaccines to control it.

Giving children like Selah a chance at a normal life.

"I never knew my life would be like this," Selah concluded.

While the outlook for those with HIV is getting better, an estimated 56,000 Americans will become infected this year. One in five don't know they are. To learn how you can help a child like Selah with HIV, log onto www.projecthopeful.org

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Carolyn Twietmeyer
Project Hopeful
(815) 782-7036
www.projecthopeful.org
media@projecthopeful.org

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