Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Love Denied Children with HIV Feel Hurt of Rejection from What Should Be Sources of Comfort

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Love Denied Children with HIV Feel Hurt of Rejection from What Should Be Sources of Comfort

Article excerpt

A 7-year-old boy infected with the virus that causes AIDS is banned from Sunday school.

A 4-year-old girl with symptoms of AIDS is shunned by many relatives.

For families who care for children or young adults with AIDS, public stigma only adds to the disease's cruel impact. Neighbors, friends, co-workers, bosses, even relatives reject them. As a result, most families keep their children's illness secret. Some even protect their children in death.

"Sometimes, a teen-ager dies of AIDS, but no one in the family will give the cause of death," says Kathleen Gioia, program coordinator for hemophilia and AIDS services at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital.

"What are we telling children by this behavior?" Gioia asked. "The feeling of shame overshadows the lives of the children, and they've done nothing to deserve that."

***** A Grandmother's Ordeal

Sarah Simms, 64, of University City, goes to public meetings and to church, telling anyone who will listen about AIDS prevention.

"Yet we have relatives who don't visit us because of Ashley's illness," Simms said.

Ashley is her granddaughter, who got AIDS while in her infected mother's womb.

Ashley, 4, was abandoned after her father, Simms' son, was shot and killed in Ohio in 1990.

Simms now devotes all her energy to caring for Ashley. She needs all the help she can get. In recent months, Ashley has had some alarming symptoms, including a respiratory infection that antibiotics fail to stop.

"She's lost five pounds in two weeks," Simms said, shaking her head.

Simms said: "Compassion for children with AIDS should be visible - or they know they're being shunned."

***** One Couple Fights Back

After they were asked to leave their church last year because of their ill foster child, Gennie and Bob Ring were devastated. …

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