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Suit Filed Over Child’s HIV Test

July 31, 1998

CHICAGO (AP) _ It began on a summer day with two boys from a dayschool program playing at a public pool in suburban Wheaton. The two _ one white, one black _ shared a snorkel.

Two years later, the black boy and his mother are suing the program, saying its organizers pressured them into having the child tested for HIV and strep throat after the white boy’s mother learned of the shared snorkel.

The federal lawsuit, filed Wednesday, accuses Wheaton-based Outreach Community Ministries of racial discrimination, and says the group’s officials broke state law by releasing the HIV test results to the other mother.

The suit also names Glen Ellyn Clinic and Dr. Donald White, who performed the tests at the clinic. It does not name the white boy’s mother.

``The focus here is on these professionals ... who rather than acting out of knowledge and common sense were willing to go along with someone else’s prejudice,″ said Roger Leishman, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued on behalf of the woman _ identified as Mary Doe.

Leishman said his client, a single mother of two sons, agreed to the tests because she feared she would lose her much-needed day care. Her son, now 11 and identified in the suit as Jimmy Doe, said the tests made him feel ``dirty,″ according to the lawsuit.

``If Jimmy was a white kid, we wouldn’t be talking about this today,″ Leishman said. ``Everyone knows you can’t get AIDS from a snorkel, but when you’re talking about a black kid, everyone is willing to forget what they know.″

Chris Ellerman, executive director of Outreach Community Ministries, said he brought the matter to the attention of the black mother because the white mother was threatening to sue her to force the tests.

``This case is about fear of AIDS,″ Ellerman said. ``When you’re afraid of AIDS, you’re going to hang on to the thinnest thread.″

Ellerman said he ``strongly recommended″ that the black mother talk to a lawyer but never pressured her to have the tests done.

Officials at Glen Ellyn Clinic declined to comment. An operator at the clinic’s pediatrics unit said she had no phone number or address for White, who moved to Colorado last month.

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