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The Plain Dealer
Teen And Her Family Rely On AIDS Taskforce
BY REGINA MCENERY; PLAIN DEALER REPORTER
December 27, 2003
She wants to be called Maggie, in memory of a 14-year-old girl killed a few months ago in a car crash.
Assuming the identity of her best buddy is Maggies way of honoring the fallen classmate. Plus the pseudonym guarantees a certain level of anonymity, important for a 14-year-old girl whose medical chart has listed HIV since birth.
Both of Maggies parents were infected with HIV. Her mother, unable to shake an intravenous drug habit, died of AIDS in 1999. But Maggies mother always managed to provide clothes and shoes for her little girl, even when she was forced to give up custody when Maggie was about 6.
Maggies father, in and out of jail on drug-related charges, now lives in Puerto Rico. He maintains sparse contact with his only daughter.
The job of raising Maggie has been left to her grandmother, a kind-hearted woman with a generous laugh, who recently adopted Maggies two young cousins. Their parents also are drug-addicted. The blended family of four lives in a small apartment in the Detroit Shoreway area but expects to move soon to a safer neighborhood.
Maggies grandmother depends upon the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, one of The Plain Dealers Holiday Spirit agencies. The family uses the agencys busy food pantry to help keep its cupboard stocked with groceries. The task force also provides subsidies to cover gasoline and rent. One time, the agency even helped Maggie buy a bed.
Its been a tough row to hoe, but some people have it worse, Maggies grandmother says philosophically.
Maggie is one of hundreds of people with HIV receiving some kind of support from the Euclid Avenue agency, one of the largest private AIDS service providers in Ohio. Begun more than 15 years ago, the AIDS Taskforce now serves more than 1,800 individuals a 250 percent increase in the last three years. Last year, it provided 225,000 meals to people with HIV/AIDS and their dependent children.
The agency also provided transportation, housing and education, while reducing overhead costs. As of March, Ohio has 13,159 reported cases of people living with HIV/AIDS. The Greater Cleveland area, which covers six counties in Northeast Ohio, has 3,335 diagnosed cases of HIV/AIDS.
Maggie is one of those cases. She is in the ninth grade.
Six As, Grandma says proudly.
Maggie writes poems, enjoys fiction and likes to dance. She is involved in her Baptist congregation and thinks she would like to be a counselor to sick children one day.
She says she doesnt think about her HIV status much and doesnt want people to feel sorry for her. Still, it clouds her life from time to time.
When she developed pneumonia last year, it took twice as long to recover compared with other kids her age. She cant get used to the daily regimen of AIDS cocktails that keep the immune systems of people with HIV healthy.
Six months ago, she gave up the anti-retroviral drugs entirely. She agreed to see a child psychologist last month to discuss resuming the combination therapy, however.
In sixth grade, Maggies secret slipped out after a close friend slipped and told a few other classmates.
All the girls came to the office crying and crying, recalls Maggie. My principal made them promise to keep it to themselves.