Wednesday, June 25, 2014

September 1987: AIDS fear

 A Pasadena ISD official has confirmed the enrollment this week of students carrying the AIDS virus.

Spokesman Kirk Lewis, who issued a formal statement Tuesday, refused to state how many students will be in regular classes, special education classes or will be homebound, the three options listed by Lewis as those those the district can pursue.

Also unknown as a result of the statement is in what stages the students are carrying the virus.

"It is my understanding we have students enrolled in our district who have been diagnosed as being HIV positive or ARC (AIDS related complex), or AIDS," he said. The virus is defined only in these three stages."

"Due to the federal and state statute, we are required to proect the medical confidentiality of these students," Lewis further stated.

A state law took effect this week which states the only person to know about students carrying the disease should be the school nurse. Lewis said the district is trying to get clarification of that law, since it may be necessary for the teacher, the principal, and the superintendent to be aware of students carrying the virus.

Lewis said he has not received any phone calls recently regarding th presence of an AIDS victim in the classroom and that he received only a handful over the summer. Last spring the district revealed that a preschooler was expected to enter school this fall. Lewis did not say whether that child had enrolled.

"I want to reassure you that precautions have been taken and procedures implemented that have been reviewed by public health services and physicians," he said. "They are being closely following in all our school by all our employees to ensure the protection of all students and employees."

Those precautions begin in the spring with an educational blitz throughout the district which included educating teachers and students alike about the disease with a film presentation. That film was also shown at numerous civic groups within the communities and to PTA groups.

Precautions to be taken include special custodial care in the cleaning up of body fluid spills. Teachers are expected to be inserviced in the next two weeks on the precautions they should take, and they are expected to be given similar instructions, such as to take special precautions in the event a student contracts a bloody nose.

Lewis stressed that precautions would be taken with all students. "It would naive to assume there were no other students our there carrying the virus," Lewis said.

In developing a response to the presence of AIDS victims, the district has worked with numerous health care services, including the Center for Disease Control, the Texas Health Department, and the Texas Medical Center.

Lewis said parents are urged to keep an open mind regarding the presence of AIDS victims in the schools.

"People need to know that the school climate is not the place their child is at a greater risk," he said.

PISD Supervisor of Health Services Mary Choate said it is crucial to keep spread of panic from happening.

( A week later, the front page piece notes 44 calls, only 4 negative, and one family who elected to remove their child from the school district out of fear.)

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