The Meredith Family
“We have so many hopes for the future, but our greatest dream is to live in a world where no child, parent, brother, or sister will ever have to lose someone they love because of HIV.”
In 1996, everything changed for Clay and Suzan Meredith and their two children, Alee and Mitchell. Shortly after their youngest son, Mitchell was born, he became very ill. During that same time their daughter, Alee, then 5 years old, was also suffering from a series of mysterious illnesses that doctors could not diagnose.
“I was losing both of my children and no one could tell me why,” said Suzan. “Then I got the phone call that saved our lives. Our pediatrician wanted to test Mitchell for HIV.”
At first, Suzan was confused and shocked. She couldn’t fathom how her infant son could have contracted HIV. But her doctor explained the devastating truth:
“I remember her words, ‘he would have had to have gotten it from you,’ echoing in my mind,” said Suzan.
Suzan, Alee, and Mitchell all tested positive for HIV. Suzan had contracted the virus before she and Clay got married and had been unknowingly living with HIV for more than 10 years. She then passed the virus on to her children, but fortunately Clay remained HIV-negative. The diagnosis was a shock, but the Merediths refused to give up hope.
“When Suzan learned that she was HIV-positive, she went to the library. The first book she saw, right at eye level, was Elizabeth Glaser’s biography In the Absence of Angels,” said Clay. “After reading the book, everything changed for our family. Suddenly we knew there was an organization that could help. They were there to support us, educate us, and fight for us. And it gave us the courage to fight as well.”
Despite facing stigma and discrimination, the Merediths decided to go public with their family’s HIV status and reached out the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) to join its mission to end AIDS in children.
“It was a tough decision to come out about our HIV-status, but one that we have never regretted,” said Suzan. “Our family, friends, and community have been extremely supportive. And thanks to the hard work of advocates like Elizabeth Glaser, we were able to get the medicines we needed for our whole family to stay healthy. We are truly blessed.”
In 2006, the Merediths decided to adopt an HIV-positive boy from Ethiopia. Yonas was four years old when he joined the Meredith family.
“Yonas was a part of our family from day one,” said Suzan. “Thanks to Yonas, we've learned that the bonds of family can stretch across an entire continent. He is an amazing brother to Mitch and Alee and a remarkable son.”
Like the rest of his family, Yonas is dedicated to raising awareness about HIV among his friends and peers.
“Yonas’ close friends, coaches, and teachers all know he's HIV-positive. A little education goes a long way. He's just like anybody else except he takes medicine daily to keep the virus undetectable,” said Suzan.
Yonas and the rest of the Meredith family are committed to ending the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV through sharing their story as EGPAF Ambassadors at UP 4 THE FIGHT Dance Marathons and other EGPAF events across the United States.
Profile last updated: March 2016