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AIDS Victim Who Took Struggle Public Dies

September 6, 1990

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) _ Jennifer Folsom, who went public with her family’s struggle against AIDS, died at her home Wednesday.

Her husband, Doug, shot himself in June when, overcome by the strain of having his wife and young daughter infected with the deadly virus.

A second daughter so far hasn’t tested positive for the virus.

″This afternoon she smiled, and that was the end of it,″ said Jim Leith, a family friend in Duxbury, where Folsom lived.

″She was a super lady,″ he said. ″She was a gutsy thing. You could take a good example from her. She knew exactly how to handle herself.″

In an interview with the Associated Press in July, Folsom, 29, said she wanted people to know she had AIDS because she wanted to ″live with dignity and not have people whispering behind my back. I’m not ashamed of who I am. (AIDS) invaded my home without permission.″

A blood transfusion during an emergency appendectomy in a Massachusetts hospital in 1979 - before blood supplies were tested and purged of the virus - probably carried the AIDS virus into her body.

She was diagnosed in February 1988. The doctor gave her the test results in his empty office after closing; he was concerned, she said, about how his staff would react to an AIDS patient.

Angela, Folsom’s 3-year-old daughter, also has withered from acquired immune deficiency syndrome and requires round-the-clock nursing.

″It’s not over,″ Leith said. ″They have to take a deep breath and come out of this, and deal with that too.″

Angela and 4-year-old Nicolette, who is tested for the virus every six months, will live with grandparents, Leith said.

Folsom initially told friends and neighbors that she had cancer. But then went public with her story because she wanted people to know that rural Vermont hasn’t escaped AIDS.

″Here I am, this white, middle-class housewife living in Vermont, trying to make a living,″ she said. ″How dare this disease come into my home? It’s AIDS. I eat and drink and sleep AIDS. But I’m not afraid of it anymore.″

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