Silvia and Caleb. (Photo: EGPAF)
Motherhood has always been Silvia's passion — she has devoted her entire life to children. But when her son, Caleb, was barred from swimming in a pool at an Alabama RV park because he is HIV-positive, Silvia knew it wasn’t right. And she became an activist.
“What happened to Caleb should not happen to any child,” said Silvia, 67. “This is about making sure that all children are treated fairly.”
Silvia is the mother of three grown children, and together with her husband, Dick, she has cared for more than 60 foster children. Silvia and Dick became Caleb’s foster parents when he was an infant, nearly four years ago, and they later learned that Caleb was HIV-positive. The family felt a special connection with Caleb and he eventually became their first foster child to be legally adopted. “I fell in love with him the first time I saw him,” Silvia said.
The family has faced overwhelming challenges since Caleb joined the family. Caleb’s HIV has caused numerous health problems, and he must eat through a feeding tube. He is frequently in the hospital and will require special care for the rest of his life.
In May 2008, soon after Caleb’s adoption was finalized, Dick passed away after a difficult battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
But Silvia and Caleb have persevered, and along the way they became something they never set out to be: HIV/AIDS advocates. Following the incident at the swimming pool in July 2007, the family has been catapulted into the media spotlight, and they have traveled around the country to speak out about the rights of children living with HIV.
“Education is really the key,” said Silvia. “We need to continue to educate people in all areas so that everyone understands what HIV is and what it is not. So we’ll keep talking about it whenever we get the chance.”
Blog posts featuring Silvia and Caleb: