Editors note: This story originally appeared in the Times' Floridian section on Oct. 22, 1991.
A year ago, Jennifer Cupp told readers of her struggle with AIDS. That struggle is almost over. But there is good news: Baby Glenda has tested negative for the virus.
With AIDS, who can say when the end is near? Jennifer Cupp, 29, weighs 75 pounds. She went to the emergency room at Tampa General Hospital last week. They told her there wasn't much they could do for her. She's got "wasting syndrome." That's what they call it when AIDS victims suddenly seem to shrink into walking skeletons. Jennifer may have only weeks to live. Her husband, Jerry Goodman, who also has AIDS, seemed near death a year ago in a nursing home. He rebounded, and now is back at home, able to at least walk unaided.
Jennifer doesn't want to believe she has only a few weeks to live. She wants to believe that she can get better, so she can get back her baby, Glenda, at least for a while. Because she and Jerry recently received the first ray of sunshine they've had in two years:
Their baby tested negative.
Tested negative! Jennifer and Jerry cried for two hours.
The family, profiled a year ago in the St. Petersburg Times, has lived a nightmare. Jerry, 34, contracted AIDS many years ago. Before he was diagnosed, he had already passed the virus to Jennifer. By then, they had conceived the child they had wanted for several years. Jennifer was five months pregnant when she tested positive.
She was faced with a dilemma no mother should ever know: abort a 5-month-old fetus, which she could feel moving in her womb, or have a child who could have AIDS, die of AIDS, after being sick and stuck with needles over and over.
Jennifer went twice to the abortion clinic. Once she was even on the table. She couldn't go through with it.
The baby was born March 28, 1990 — HIV positive. But she still had her mother's antibodies. It would not be certain whether she carried the virus until she was 15 months old — three months ago.
Meanwhile, Jennifer has lived with the poverty common to so many AIDS victims. She and Jerry separated and almost divorced. The couple recently reunited, emaciated and as close now to each other as they are to death.
Jennifer, outspoken and at times belligerent, admits she has alienated people who have tried to help her; she believes these people were not helping her as they should. Now, she says, various AIDS support groups will have nothing to do with her. Hospice of Hillsborough tries, but there isn't much they can do at this point, either. Others have turned away.
She has tried without success to get a prescription for DDI, a new drug just approved by the Food and Drug Administration for AIDS victims. She is allergic to AZT, which has helped Jerry survive this long.
Through all of this, Jennifer at least had her baby. But in September, she dropped from 115 pounds to 75 pounds in three weeks. Gaunt does not describe her appearance. A longtime friend urged Jennifer to sign over temporary guardianship of Glenda to her, so that the child would not end up in foster care.
Three weeks ago, too sick to care for Glenda, Jennifer relented and signed the guardianship papers. But she is still not sure what will happen to her child. Her friend has filed for permanent guardianship but has yet to decide whether she will raise Glenda. The friend's home was investigated and approved by the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS).
Jennifer wants to switch guardianship to another family. The matter may soon be settled in court.
Jennifer and Jerry see Glenda two or three times a week. She is a wonderful little monkey, climbing on everything, getting into things — so healthy.
But the child is confused, Jennifer says. "She doesn't know which home is hers, who to call momma anymore. It hurts. It's like somebody cutting off my right arm."
Meanwhile, Jennifer and Jerry live on Social Security. They live day-to-day, with few friends. They had no hope until the glorious day that Glenda tested negative.
For Jennifer and Jerry, that's not a nightmare. That's a miracle.