FAMILY and friends yesterday celebrated the first birthday of Hadassah Grace Vukialau at their Nadonumai home in Lami.
Hadassah is like every other one-year-old but what makes her story so unique is that she was born to parents who are both HIV positive.
Her mother, Jokapeci Tuberi Cati, 37, was diagnosed with the disease 16 years ago. In 2007, a year after going public with her status, she found love for the second time with a man who is also HIV positive — Emosi Ratini.
In 2009, the couple had their first child, Suliasi Pharez Vukialau, who was not HIV positive. Yesterday, while celebrating Hadassah's birthday, they were again thankful that their second child will not have to bear the stigma of living with the disease.
However, like every parent, Jokapeci's biggest fear is that her children will not be able to cope with the emotional and psychological effect of being discriminated against for having parents living with the disease.
"Knowing she (Hadassah) was HIV negative did not come as a surprise to me as it did when we had our first child," Jokapeci said.
"But my greatest fear is that Hadassah and her brother will be discriminated against because their parents came public about their HIV status."
She said she hoped for a sensitive education system and positive treatment from teachers and fellow students.
"There are children who are HIV positive or whose parents are HIV positive and they need to be given equal treatment.
"They need to be supported and given positive reception from those around them. Don't give them special treatment but equal treatment, so they do not have to feel discriminated or stereotyped."