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HIV, Custody and Guardianship

Because of HIV stigma, discrimination, and ignorance it’s possible someone could say you’re not the best one to care for your kids. Living with an HIV+ mom doesn’t threaten the health and well-being of your kids but being removed from their mom does. Take charge: if someone threatens to take your kids away because you have HIV, talk to an advocate. To ensure that your kids are looked after by someone you choose if your health fails, name a guardian.

Custody and HIV

Custody can be a sticky issue when a relationship breaks up, and HIV can make it stickier. If your ex wants to use something against you to cause you grief, your HIV status is an obvious starting point. Some women have also found that extended family that don’t know about HIV transmission can assume that kids are in danger living with a positive parent. It simply isn’t so.

HIV transmission is not an issue to worry about in day to day life with your kids. You can hug and kiss them without worry. If your kids don’t know you have HIV, when they reach an age you feel is appropriate for learning about HIV, you can talk to them about your status and how they can take precautions themselves. In the meantime, don’t worry about transmission simply through sharing your living space.

If someone suggests your kids are in danger living with you because of your HIV status, ask them what they know about HIV transmission, and point them to resources like Positive Women’s Network. If the situation escalates, talk to an advocate.

Naming A Guardian

All parents need to think about who would care for their children if the parent is unable to. In choosing a guardian, you’ll have the security of knowing who will look after them if anything happens to you. Doing this while you are healthy means there is less to worry about if you get sick. Naming a guardian doesn’t mean you have to disclose your status to your kids before you are ready, it just means they know who will look after them if you can’t.

Deciding on your guardian is a big decision. Do you want a family member or a good friend who shares similar values? If you’re struggling with the decision, ask yourself:

  • do I feel comfortable talking to the guardian about my health?
  • how do my kids feel about the guardian?
  • do I want my children to go to a home where there are other children?
  • is it important to me that they stay in the same school or community?
  • how will their lives change with the guardian?

Normally you would name a guardian in your will. There are certain steps you must follow for the will to be legal. If you live in British Columbia, you can contact the BC Legal Services Society, or a Positive Women’s Network Support Worker for help in this area.

For more information, visit our list of links to other organizations and resources.

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