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AIDS activist still fights son's battle after his death

When Neil Alley knew his 7-year-old son was about to die of AIDS, he pulled the IV from the boy's arm and the feeding tube from his stomach. He wrapped him in hospital blankets, clasped the boy to his heart and strode out of the hospital.

"The nurses were yelling something at me .

.

. and they called the security guards," Alley said.

The father stood in the chilly March darkness holding his son, who had been blinded and crippled by the disease.

"My wanting to do that was to let Steve be outside when he died because he'd spent so much time inside the hospital."

Alley hoped his son would live at least until sunrise.

"I wanted him to live, not to see the sun come up because he could not see. At least if the sun came up, I thought that maybe he might be able to feel its warmth.

"But he did not last until the sun came up."

After Steve died in his arms, his father stood for 20 minutes while the sky lightened.

"I carried him back into his hospital room and I laid him down on the bed and then I came in and I went to work."

Steve Alley contracted the AIDS virus through a blood transfusion. He began receiving transfusions in 1989 because he had polycythemiavera, a disease characterized by an excess of red blood cells.

Steve was diagnosed with HIV in May 1991. Two months later, he developed acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Alley and his wife decided to move from southeastern Ohio to Cincinnati so Steve could receive medical treatment. But before they could move, Mrs. Alley and their two other sons died in an automobile wreck.

Alley, who had been a medic in the Army, decided he would take care of Steve as much as possible.

"I ended up being Steve's sole care provider," said Alley, who is HIV care coordinator for the Northern Kentucky District Health Department.

"I worked full time, and the only time that I could really spend with Steve was during the evening and at night. Sometimes I would sleep over at the hospital."

Alley remains bitter about what he perceived to be the unsympathetic and cavalier treatment Steve received from many at the hospital.

"When the phlebotomist comes in and starts poking your kid two times, three times, four times, five times, six times, seven times, by the time you get to the seventh time you're willing .

.

. to pick them up and throw them out the window."

Alley said it still is difficult for him to speak about his son's death.

He remembers Steve as a "strong little boy." Alley taught him to be proud of his Jewish heritage.

Alley said he is a private person and he had not told any of his co-workers that the child he was visiting at the hospital was his son. He took his son's body back to southeastern Ohio for burial next to his mother and two brothers.

"About a month later the graves were desecrated with anti-Semitic graffiti and anti-AIDS graffiti, and that happened a second time in July," Alley said.

"So it kind of leaves me feeling like it's still not over and won't be for a long time."

Alley said some parents express relief when their children die of AIDS because it ends the suffering. He hasn't felt that.

"I'd rather have him here, and I'd rather fight with him each day and keep him alive than give up," Alley said.

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