HIV-Positive and Proud to be a Foster-to-Adopt Dad

HIV-Positive and Proud to Be a Foster-to-Adopt Dad

When Jeremy Hyvärinen was first diagnosed with HIV about 13 years ago, his biggest fear was that he’d ruined his dream of one day having a family. But being HIV-positive has not stopped him at all.

Not only is Jeremy now happily married with a daughter, he and his family have even worked together to tell their story on an HIV media campaign.

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41-year-old Jeremy met husband 50-year-old Michael Meehan at a mutual friend’s pool party in Phoenix, Arizona in 2009, and they were married four years later. Jeremy said they always knew they wanted to be parents, and that they wanted to adopt. 

"Even from a young age, [I had] always dreamed of adopting a child. I never had that male urge to procreate on my own. There are enough kids out there that need good homes, that I wanted to adopt," Jeremy told The Body. "And I thought, this might have just ruined my chance, because I had not heard of people adopting who had HIV."

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When Jeremy and Michael decided to become foster parents, at the time there were almost 18,000 children in the foster system in Arizona. “We just wanted to provide a safe and loving home for at least one of them," Jeremy explained.

In 2016, the couple started fostering then 2-year-old Jena with the help of Arizona Children's Association, which they said were welcoming, helpful, and supportive throughout their entire journey. Jeremy said they both had an incredible support system of friends, family and neighbors that all welcomed Jena into their family.

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“Every path to parenthood is scary and has its own challenges, and foster-to-adopt is a stressful process,” he said. “But it’s worth every single one of those hard moments when they giggle at something silly, call you Daddy or Papa for the first time, or give you hugs for no reason.”

Now 7 years old, Jena enjoys gymnastics, hiking, drawing, taking pictures and putting on makeup. For Jeremy, the best part about being a dad is the privilege of witnessing their little girl grow everyday. “We tell people all the time that we are the lucky ones,” he said. 

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While they’re loving the experience of parenthood, of course it isn’t always easy. Michael said the hardest part of being a dad is knowing that they can’t always protect their daughter. All they can do is prepare her as best they can to navigate the world around her.

Six years ago, Jeremy joined the Ryan White program as their HIV quality manager. In 2021, he worked on two HIV media campaigns and told his family’s story for the first time. 

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“Michael and Jena even joined me for one of the campaigns,” Jeremy said. “They were so supportive and my biggest cheerleaders the whole time.”

One project Jeremy took part in was Arizona's Positively You campaign, launched by Maricopa County Public Health last September. Positively You is aimed at young people to encourage HIV testing and treatment, and to let them know that they’re not alone.

For many years, Jeremy said becoming a parent as an HIV-positive man didn’t seem possible. But thanks to the foster-to-adopt path to parenthood, he is now the proud dad of one sweet curly-haired little girl.

“To find someone who’d love me, despite my diagnosis, and to raise her,” Jeremy smiled. “HIV didn’t stop me. Today, I’m living my dream with Michael and Jena.”

Posted by Brit Smith

Brit Smith is a Staff Writer & Associate Editor at GWK. A native of London, England, Brit started her American adventure nannying and waiting tables in Texas in 2006, and eventually graduated magna cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley in 2017. Brit has previously written and created podcasts for WBZ NewsRadio, iHeart Media, and Different Leaf.



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