The Prince George's County Board of Education revealed last night that two school system employes have died of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) within the last nine months and that a third employe found to have the condition is on leave.
Chairman Angelo Castelli, who made the announcement at a regular scheduled board meeting, declined to identify the victims or say where they had worked, but told a reporter after the session that the two who had died were custodians and that the third employe was a teacher who had since left the school system.
School spokesman Brian J. Porter said the board "has been assured by the county health department that the conditions under which the employes worked did not pose a threat of transmittal of the disease."
AIDS, which destroys the body's immune system and thus its ability to fight disease, is spread only through body fluids, blood and blood products -- usually by intimate sexual contact or sharing of hypodermic needles.
Castelli said at the meeting that while the three cases "present no medical problems," he felt obligated to reveal their existence because "this has happened and we should be up front about it."
School officials recently learned of the two deaths through "a normal, routine review of health records for insurance and other administrative purposes," Porter said, noting that officials in Montgomery County learned through a similar review that a teacher there died of AIDS.
Porter said Prince George's officials found out about the third case because "the person wanted to go on leave, and we wanted to know why."
In early October, Montgomery school officials announced that two teachers with AIDS had died in the last 13 months, and implemented a temporary policy that would remove a teacher or student who has the condition from the classroom.
Castelli introduced a resolution last night urging that local jurisdictions be required to notify each other when AIDS cases are reported. The resolution asks that the Prince George's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly push for legislation compelling such notification.
The resolution also would require that any student or school system employe who learns that he or she has AIDS "report that fact . . . at the earliest possible moment."
"If someone goes to a doctor in the District of Columbia and learns they have AIDS, they are not required to report it to Maryland," Castelli said.
The resolution introduced by Castelli is "basically a bureaucratic thing," said Porter. It simply "urges that some type of intercounty, interstate reporting mechanism be set up about a potentially serious health problem," he said.
At the school board's last meeting, members voted to decide on a case-by-case basis whether students and school employes found to have AIDS should be barred from classrooms and school buildings. A proposal by Castelli that would have barred AIDS victims from school buildings was defeated at that meeting.
Board member Catherine Burch, who sponsored the case-by-case policy, said she has "great concerns" about the resolution requiring notification of AIDS. "I think we could deal with this through administrative procedures," she said. "Those on leave now may become suspect" after last night's announcement, she added. "There's all sorts of innuendo around. My feeling is the fewer who know about [AIDS cases] the better."