Illinois: Center of AIDS Controversy Dies at 23

Jason Robertson, 23, died Thursday in Granite City, Ill. At age 5, Robertson was diagnosed with HIV; he contracted the virus through hemophilia blood products. At his mother's suggestion, the Granite City School District used a special classroom trailer to shield him from controversy. But when he became lonely, his mother asked that he be allowed to attend regular classes. The district refused, siding with parents who feared, contrary to medical fact, that their children would become infected through casual contact. In 1988, a federal judge ordered the district to admit Robertson to regular classes. He was greeted by picketers there, and again at his elementary school in South Roxana, where the family later moved. Robertson became friends with Ryan White, the Kokomo, Ind., boy with AIDS whose legal struggle to attend school became a national story in 1985. With the money he was awarded in a lawsuit against the suppliers of the tainted blood products, Robertson bought his own house and car. He stopped his AIDS medication when it began to aggravate his hemophilia. "He wanted to live at least a couple of years without pain," said Tammie Robertson, his mother.