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MIT graduate student afflicted with AIDS dies

[mk1]By Amy S. Gorin

An MIT graduate student who was diagnosed earlier this year as having Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) has died, according to Associate Dean Robert M. Randolph of the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs.

Randolph was unsure if the student, who he declined to identify, died in the MIT infirmary or at home.

MIT Associate Medical Director Dr. Mickael A. Kane would not reveal if the patient had died in the infirmary, but said the infirmary was equipped to handle such a patient.

AIDS patients create a "two-way vulnerability," Kane explained. The patients themselves are very susceptible to disease and need to be protected from infectious persons. Health care workers also need to be protected from potentially dangerous contact with the patient's blood and secretions.

The precautions which are indicated in the care of an AIDS patient, according to Kane, are the same as precautions taken with victims of Hepatitis B, and existed long before the AIDS outbreak.

The danger to health care workers is actually less with AIDS than with Hepatitis B, Kane added, because the AIDS virus is more fragile and therefore harder to transmit.

The Medical Department would do what was "clinically indicated" to care for an AIDS patient, Kane said. The AIDS patient is not at risk from the AIDS virus itself, but from infections and diseases which take advantage of the patient's weakened immune system. The care of an AIDS patient involves treating those diseases and infections. This is "not a new line of business," he explained.

Unless an AIDS patient needed care which the Medical Department could not provide, the patient would not be sent to an outside hospital, Kane said. A patient with a disease or an opportunistic infection "will remain our patient" regardless of whether or not the patient was suffering from that disease or infection as the result of having AIDS.

The isolation of AIDS patients is the result of a growing unfounded fear of and discrimination against AIDS patients, Kane said. "The last thing we want to do is feed into that discrimination."