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Eliana Martinez, 8; AIDS Victim in School Dispute

From Staff and Wire Reports

A retarded AIDS victim whose mother successfully challenged a ruling that the girl had to be isolated in a glass booth in order to attend school has died of the disease. She was 8.

Eliana Martinez, who contracted AIDS as an infant from a tainted blood transfusion, died in her mother’s arms at home Monday evening, surrounded by family members and friends.

“She died like she lived--fighting every inch of the way,” said her mother, Rosa Martinez. “She opened her eyes and looked right at me. Then she closed them and she died.”

Eliana had been monitored around the clock since a brush with death three weeks ago from a feeding-tube infection

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Rosa Martinez, a licensed practical nurse, adopted the girl when the child was 11 months old. Eliana had been abandoned in a Puerto Rico hospital.

Hillsborough County School Board officials had wanted the child kept home in 1987, fearing that she posed a health risk. A judge ruled that Eliana could attend school if she stayed inside a special glass booth.

But Rosa Martinez said she would not send her daughter to class under those conditions. Her attorney appealed and won. In April of this year, Eliana went to a school for children with special needs, without the enclosure.

Doctors had taken Eliana off the experimental AIDS-fighting drug DDI on Oct. 4, saying that it was not protecting her from life-threatening infections.

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