Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

When Families Live with Aids Project Ark Helps Parents Care for Infected Children

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

When Families Live with Aids Project Ark Helps Parents Care for Infected Children

Article excerpt

Until two and a half years ago, Jean and Patrick Pillman's story was uneventful.

They lived in Germany, where he was a combat engineer for the U.S. Army and she had a federal job. They had reached their late 20s and decided to have a child.

But three months into her pregnancy, Jean Pillman found out she had HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. She got it during a blood transfusion in 1984.

She took a drug to stop the virus from infecting her fetus. But her son, Joshua, still tested positive after birth. Now 2, he has AIDS.

The Pillmans' lives now revolve around keeping mother and child well. They get help from a new program called Project ARK (AIDS/HIV Resources for Kids), a joint project of the Washington University and St. Louis University schools of medicine.

Project ARK is a one-stop service facilitator for families affected by AIDS. The program began offering help on August 1.

Dr. Gregory Storch, Project ARK's medical director, said the project should help fill gaps in services to AIDS-affected families. "The needs of children with HIV and AIDS and their families are very great, and they're not always being met," he said.

Storch said about 45 children had been diagnosed with HIV or fullblown AIDS in eastern Missouri and southern Illinois. Another 20 babies born to HIV-infected mothers are being followed to see whether they develop the disease. The numbers are expected to grow in the coming decade.

Project ARK is being financed with a $428,000 federal grant, renewable for two more years.

Storch said the grant would be used to beef up nursing care and social work for infected children and help the children's regular pediatricians handle their routine medical care. The social workers will be able to plug families into current programs and devise new ones, such as respite care for worn-out parents, Storch said.

Project ARK's first big undertaking was a summer camp for children with HIV or AIDS, which was held at the YMCA's Camp Lakewood, in Potosi. Seventeen infected children and their parents, including the Pillmans, attended in August.

"It was a great experience for us to get away and do some things as a family, plus have some time by ourselves," said Jean Pillman, who is 29. …

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