Washington School Chief Blames Artificial Insemination for AIDS

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Washington’s top school official disclosed Tuesday that she contracted AIDS during artificial insemination, but she insisted that she would “remain a fighter” and is still considering a run for Congress.

Judith Billings said she received infected donor sperm in the 1980s while trying to become pregnant. Her husband, Don, is not infected.

“As I contemplate the future, the seriousness of my health cannot be downplayed,” Billings told a news conference. “At the same time, I am certainly not going to allow what is possible tomorrow to sidetrack me, derail me, depress me or defeat me in any way.”


Billings, 56, said she would not seek a third term as superintendent of public instruction but may run for the congressional seat held by freshman Republican Randy Tate.

Gov. Mike Lowry, a fellow Democratic liberal and a longtime ally, said Billings’ decision to go public would again focus attention on AIDS.

“Her handling of this bad luck shows her tremendous courage and tremendous character,” Lowry said.

Billings, a former schoolteacher, said she was found to be infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, last March. A doctor had suggested an HIV test after Billings suffered from a series of infections over several months.

She was stunned when the results came back positive.

“I thought it was the craziest thing I had ever heard of,” she said.

Billings later contracted Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, one of the opportunistic diseases that prey on people whose immune systems are weakened by HIV. Her T-cell count then dropped below 200, which is an indicator that HIV has become AIDS.

She said she is doing better now, and her T-cell count is comfortably above 200. T-cells are the white blood cells that fight infection; A healthy count is about 1,000 per milliliter of blood.


“I feel fantastic,” Billings said.

Billings’ husband, who has four children from an earlier marriage, had undergone a vasectomy that was irreversible. Billings said they opted for artificial insemination because she longed for children of her own.

She became pregnant twice by artificial insemination but miscarried.

Artificial insemination is an extremely rare way of getting HIV, with only a handful of cases reported nationally.