The sign on his crib at Georgetown University Hospital read "Please Do Not Touch Me! Thanks."
The warning was given to keep visitors away from Matthew Kozup, now 2 1/2, of Herndon. He is suffering from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) as the result of a blood transfusion he received while a newborn at the hospital.
Today, Matthew is in isolation at Fairfax Hospital, having spent most of his brief life in hospitals. But according to the federal officials who tabulate AIDS cases, Matthew doesn't exist. He isn't counted because -- like many AIDS patients, but particularly children -- he doesn't have certain of the ailments needed to become an official case.
Matthew and others may not be a visible part of the dilemma, but their problems are just as real.
"Everyone feels that it's a tragic accident, but we're the ones left trying to find help for Matthew," said his mother, Susan.
Her son, who also has cerebral palsy, recently was denied entry into special education classes by the Fairfax Board of Education because of his illness. The board acted on the advice of Dr. Fred Payne, director of communicable diseases for the Fairfax County Department of Health.
"The chances for transfer are significant," said Payne. "We just couldn't, from the basis of public health, take that risk."
Researchers have found that, generally, AIDS is transmitted only by direct contact with body fluids. To guard themselves and their 3 1/2-year-old-daughter, the Kozups buy boxes of gloves and "spend hours a day washing," according to Susan Kozup. "His sister can't play with him, and we don't even kiss him or hug him. It breaks my heart -- all we can do is sing to him."
Matthew has the development of a 5-month-old. His care has cost his parents and their health insurer more than $200,000.
"It is terrible that we have to live with the consequences of this disease," said Steven Kozup, a computer engineer. "You pay for the blood and you're told it's nobody's fault, that the quality assurance can't be there. It's an emotional drain, and we know there are other parents out there going through it."
AIDS cases from transfusions are rare, less than 1 percent of the 10,050 reported cases of the disease in the Centers for Disesase Control's official statistics. But the risk is greater among hemophiliacs and premature infants because they receive many transfusions.
When Matthew was born in January 1983, he was 10 weeks premature. Doctors told his parents he was given 20 to 40 blood transfusions from 10 different donors shortly after his birth.
His parents first attributed Matthew's physical problems to his cerebral palsy, but recurring infections and his enlarged liver, spleen and lymph nodes prompted specialists at Georgetown to consider AIDS as a remote possibility.
Steven Kozup read a newspaper article about a new blood test to detect the AIDS virus. He prodded Matthew's doctors at Georgetown to have the child tested; the results were positive and led to the AIDS diagnosis.
"You have to be strong," Susan Kozup said. "There's not a day since Matthew has been diagnosed that I haven't cried."