School’s HIV Scare Defused, But Parents Criticize Response

By Jessica L. Tonn — May 10, 2005 1 min read

Parents of 19 elementary school students in Philadelphia were advised last week that they could stop giving anti-retroviral drugs to their children now that an HIV scare caused by a needle-pricking incident at Bayard Taylor Elementary School has been defused, according to district officials.

Doctors at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children initially prescribed the medications, which would slow the progress of the virus that causes AIDS by reducing the amount of HIV in the blood, after one of the students involved received a positive result on an HIV test conducted immediately after the incident. The doctors told parents to stop administering the medications after later tests found all the students to be HIV-negative.

The April 27 incident occurred when a 3rd grader brought a diabetes-related blood-testing device to school and pricked classmates. Although the needle-poking was discovered just before 1 p.m., when one of the students informed a Philadelphia school district police officer, some parents complained that they were not informed until several hours later.

Fernando A. Gallard, a spokesman for the 205,000-student district, said that school officials began contacting parents at 2:15 p.m., after first notifying the school’s health-services office and the city health department.

Some parents could not be reached until 4 p.m., he said, because of the number of children involved and difficulties reaching parents.

Wanda Miller, the executive director of the Castle Rock, Colo.-based National Association of School Nurses, recommends that schools and parents caution young children, in particular, about using any items that could cause them bodily harm, such as needles.