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February 4, 1999

What the law means to one parent

The following is the text of a statement by Jim King, an HIV-infected Washington County resident. It was read at the Jan. 22 Pitt news conference announcing passage of Pennsylvania's new Standby Guardianship Act:

I am a 41-year old white male who is HIV infected. I am also a husband and a father to a 9-year-old boy named Devon. Both my wife and son have full-blown AIDS. I was unable to come here today to testify in person because Devon was just released from the h ospital, where he was treated for ongoing AIDS-related ailments.

My family and I struggle daily to survive. We live in rural Washington County, where we are often met with hostility and rejection and where services and medical professionals with HIV/AIDS experience are very limited. Family members want nothing to do wi th us — leaving us with only the support of each other to rely on.

The passage of the Standby Guardianship Act will greatly aid in the future care and custody planning for my son. My wife and I need options when considering who will care for Devon if and when something happens to us. Standby Guardianship allows my wife a nd me to choose a responsible, caring guardian for our son. The guardian will have a chance to become a part of our family while we are still together. This person will know what our wishes are about medical decisions that might need to be made for Devon.

Because we have no family that could or would care for Devon if something happens to my wife or me, it is so important to us to know that a responsible person will make the right decisions for our son. Passage of the Standby Guardianship Act has lifted a great burden off our shoulders by allowing us the opportunity to carefully choose someone to care for Devon when my wife and I are unable to care for him ourselves. It is my hope that this law will relieve that same burden for other families in Pennsylvania.

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