Adoptive Family Targets AIDS Stereotypes

Three of the Twietmeyer children at home. Den reynolds evening news

In a quiet subdivision on an unassuming street, there is a house that is very much a home. In addition to their seven kids, Carolyn and Kiel Twietmeyer adopted six more from Ethiopia, reports CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds.

"It's such a miracle if you think about the fact that our family is built from across the world," Carolyn said.

But it's not just the make-up, it's also the medical history. One of their Ethiopian children has AIDS. A second is HIV positive.

"Look at it this way. If your child had some terrible disease, would you not do anything you can for them? So what makes us sit aside while kids die every day?" Kiel asked.

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The Twietmeyers were looking to adopt one child when they went to Ethiopia, but soon saw that the disease had devastated entire families.

When the Twietmeyers adopted Sam, with HIV, they just couldn't separate him from his siblings, so they adopted them, too.

Then, unable to forget a little girl at the orphanage, they returned to adopt Selah, even though she was very ill. Today, Selah is 13 and her AIDS is controlled.

"I feel very good here," Selah said.

To keep Selah's family together, the Twietmeyers adopted her brother and sister.

So where does everybody sleep?

In the Twietmeyers' house there are bunks in the bedrooms - and bedrooms in the basement.

Meanwhile, to overcome ignorance about adopting kids with treatable AIDS and HIV, the Twietmeyers launched Project Hopeful.

An estimated 2.5 million children worldwide are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

"It's all about educating, encouraging and enabling families," Carolyn said.

When we visited this week, their house was full of children - many HIV positive from Ukraine, Ethiopia, Uganda and India - all adopted by other Project Hopeful families.

"We have had an amazing experience," Carolyn said.

The Twietmeyers are not wealthy and they have a long road ahead of them. But they also believe each step will be illuminated by the light in the eyes of their children.

  • Dean Reynolds
    Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.