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Boy At Center Of HIV Case Dies


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Boy At Center Of HIV Case Dies

by The Associated Press

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(Bangor, Maine) An 11-year-old who as a toddler was at the center of a legal battle that went to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court over treatment of the virus that causes AIDS has died at his home outside Bangor.

The case involving Nikolas Emerson of Kenduskeag drew global attention when the Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that state officials couldn't force his mother, Valerie Wilks, to treat him aggressively with three powerful AIDS drugs.

The family would not say whether Nikolas' death was AIDS-related.

Wilks, who was at her son's side when he died March 2, isn't ready to speak publicly about his death, according to her mother, Patricia Zebulske. "When Valerie is ready to share, she will. It's just a little too early for her."

Wilks, then Valerie Emerson, found that she was HIV-positive when she was pregnant with one of her sons. Tests were done on her three older children, and Nikolas and his sister Tia tested positive.

Tia, like her mother, had been taking the AIDS drug AZT. But the girl, who had been sick on and off with pneumonia, reacted badly to the medication and died a painful death in her mother's arms in 1997, shortly before she turned 4.

Wilks' much-publicized battle for a mother's right to make medical decisions for her child became a lightning rod for others in similar situations.

After the ruling, Wilks said she had little faith in government statistics about the prospects for children, like Nikolas, born with HIV. The Centers for Disease Control said those who regularly receive treatment for AIDS had a life expectancy of at least 20 years, while others who forgo treatment were only expected to reach age 9.

"Parents with kids who have HIV have rights, too," Wilks said. "They can make choices. All any parent can do is follow their heart."

In its decision, the Supreme Court left the door open to revisit its decision if Nikolas' condition worsened, more data became available or new medical treatments were developed.

There is no indication whether the state readdressed the issue. The Department of Health and Human Services declined comment, citing concerns over confidentiality laws.

©365Gay.com 2006

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