The Changing Face of AIDS : 'I Try to Educate Kids About HIV . . . but Parents Resist' : Elizabeth Mercado, 29, San Gabriel

My husband and I met in 1987, married in 1990. Neither of us has had sex with anyone else since we started dating. Right before we met, my husband had a one-night stand with another woman. That's the only thing we can think of that could have caused all this. But all it takes is one mistake.

We have a son, 3, and a daughter, 6. We found out in May, 1993, that my husband had AIDS. He'd had bronchitis for two months, and night sweats so bad that the sheets got soaked. The doctor said it was nothing. But at the dental lab where I worked there was literature on the symptoms of HIV. I told him to get tested.

The first doctor he went to wouldn't give him the HIV test because he'd never done drugs or been gay, and he'd been in a monogamous relationship for so long. He went elsewhere to get tested. Three weeks later he called me at work, crying hysterically.

I never thought this disease would touch me or my family. We're all so straight and have such good values. We're so grateful our children are both HIV-negative.

My 6-year-old gets asthma attacks every time her dad goes to the hospital, which is very often. She knows he's going to die of AIDS. I had to tell her because he's sick so much and every time he goes away we don't know if he will come home. He's so frustrated and angry that he won't be there for his kids as they grow up.

Every chance I get, I speak at schools for a group called Being Alive. I try to educate kids about HIV and AIDS. But parents resist. They think their kids are too young. They're wrong.

At a junior high in the San Gabriel Valley, the parents recently said I could not show condoms or discuss oral sex when I spoke. Then the kids arrived and asked to see what a condom looks like and asked very specific questions. Even I was surprised at how much these sixth-graders knew and how much more they wanted to know. Unfortunately, I was not permitted to enlighten them.

I am horrified at what this might mean for the future of those kids.

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