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Ohio Man With AIDS Allowed to Coach Team

August 8, 2003

AKRON, Ohio (AP) _ Officials of a youth football league have reversed their decision to bar a former firefighter with AIDS from helping coach his 7-year-old son’s team.

Stephen Derrig, 36, was banned on Sunday from acting as assistant coach to the team of nearly 40 boys age 7 and 8.

The Ellet Suburban Football League’s board reversed its decision Thursday after talking with medical personnel and meeting with a lawyer, League President Mike Moye said.

Moye said the board will require the players’ parents to sign a waiver acknowledging they know of Derrig’s ailment. Derrig agreed to the concession.

``I’m going to go out tomorrow and start coaching,″ Derrig said. ``Hopefully, I’m not too far behind.″

Two weeks ago, league director Dan Gable said he began receiving anonymous calls from people identifying themselves as players’ parents concerned about Derrig’s condition.

Derrig said the opposition took him by surprise. He has coached his daughter’s softball team and his son’s baseball team, both part of the same parent organization that oversees the football program.

Parents supporting Derrig told the league’s board on Monday that they disagreed with the ban, and most board members quit that night.

Derrig, a firefighter and paramedic, said he contracted AIDS when he came into contact with blood and bodily fluids of people he was called on to help. He is now retired on disability, and medication helps keep the virus in check.

``This disease is here, and we might as well take a negative and turn it into a positive,″ Derrig said.

Dr. Barbara Gripshover, medical director of the John D. Carey special immunology unit at University Hospitals of Cleveland, said concern for the children’s safety is unnecessary.

``The only way AIDS is spread is through sex, sharing needles with an infected person or blood transfusions,″ she said. ``None of these will happen on a football field.″