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30 Years Into the Epidemic, a Generation With HIV Comes of Age
Date:6/4/2011

By E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, June 3 (HealthDay News) -- In 1991, the life of a 6-year-old girl in Texas named Danielle began to unravel.

First, her father learned that he was infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Her mother went in for screening soon after and received the same grim result.

Then her parents' worst fears were realized: Danielle had been infected at birth.

In those days, when life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs were still years away, the prognosis for little girls with HIV was bleak.

"The mortality in kids was quite high: maybe a third of children would die in the first year of life and the number of kids that made it to 9 or 10 was pretty small, maybe 10 to 20 percent at best," said one pediatric HIV specialist, Dr. Russell Van Dyke, head of the Section of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Tulane University in New Orleans.

As family and medical staff struggled to care for Danielle, she watched her parents fade. Her mother died of AIDS-related illness when Danielle was 7, and her father passed away when she was 10. Doctors told Danielle's remaining family that she probably wouldn't see her 14th birthday.

But she did enjoy that birthday, and many more since. Now 26, a young mother living in Dallas, Danielle (who preferred not to give her full name) is one of thousands of perinatally infected young Americans who reflect the sweeping changes that have marked the story of HIV/AIDS in America.

That story began, on paper at least, with the June 5, 1981, publication of an article from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describing a mysterious but deadly illness affecting a cluster of gay men. That illness, AIDS, has since claimed the lives of 594,496 Americans, the CDC announced this week, and more than a million people in the United States now live with HIV.

But with the advent of powerful HIV-suppressing drugs in the mid-1990s, thin
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