A gay couple have spoken out about the ‘immediate connection’ they felt after adopting a HIV-positive child who had been rejected by 10 other families.
Damian Pighin, 42, and Ariel Vijarra, 39, were the first gay couple to get married in the north-eastern Argentine province of Santa Fe, and made the decision to expand their family in 2011.
The married couple, from Rosario, had several years of disappointment before receiving a call in 2014 about a newborn baby who was ready to be adopted.
The baby girl, who was born with HIV, was 28 days old when Damian and Ariel received the call and were informed 10 families had previously rejected her.
However, they did not hesitate to accept her into their family, with Ariel telling local media:
As soon as I saw her, I felt that she was part of my life. The connection was immediate. We held her in our arms, gave her the bottle and she looked at us with her eyes wide open without crying.
The little girl, who has been named Olivia, responded very well to her HIV treatment and she immediately started to gain weight. A couple of years ago, the family received brilliant news when tests showed the virus was no longer detectable in Olivia.
The family grew by one more in 2015, when a woman who heard about the couple’s story wanted them to adopt her baby girl. They did, and so Damian and Ariel welcomed Victoria into their lives.
The two siblings are similar in age, with Olivia turning five years old later this month and Victoria celebrating the same birthday in February.
Ariel and Damien work for non-governmental organisation Acunar Familias, which roughly translates to Cradle Families, helping couples adopt unwanted children.
Although there is currently no cure for HIV, medical treatment is available that significantly reduces the amount of the virus in the body. As per Medical News Today, this can be to the point the virus becomes undetectable in the blood.
An undetectable viral load means the person living with HIV is no longer infectious and the virus is no longer able to damage their immune system.
Earlier this year, a third person appeared to have been ‘cured’ from the virus when they underwent a stem cell transplant to treat cancer, rather than HIV. The transplant involved killing most of their immune cells with radiotherapy or drugs, and then replacing them with cells from a donor.
Although this provides hope a cure is close to being confirmed, bone marrow transplants reportedly won’t be used for people with HIV who don’t have cancer because of the risks involved in the procedure – namely graft versus host disease, infection, organ damage, and death.
Regardless, Doctor Annemarie Wensing, a virologist at the University Medical Center Utrecht, told The New York Times she hoped news of the cases will inspire a generation of doctors to keep striving for what was previously believed to be impossible.
She concluded by saying this ‘will inspire people’ to believe the ‘cure is not a dream’ but is, in fact, ‘reachable’.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).