Brunswick's Shining Exampl

January 24, 1993

Hope, faith and maybe some embarrassment.

Those are the feelings many of us might have upon learning that a high school student in a small town in Frederick County revealed that she has AIDS and that the community reacted mostly with support and compassion.

Cindy Gibson last month disclosed that she contracted acquired immune deficiency syndrome through a blood transfusion several years ago. She said she could no longer handle the stress of hiding the illness. The community's response was humane and sane-minded.

Several students at Cindy's school wore red ribbons as symbols of solidarity. The Gibsons received Christmas cards from people they didn't know. Parents with children at Brunswick High School called the school system with questions and concerns, yes, but not with mean-spiritedness and fear-mongering. The hysteria that dogged Ryan White in Indiana before his death from AIDS in 1990 didn't materialize.

Brunswick's response elicits feelings of hope that mankind will summon compassion in dealing with this growing disease -- and not just when it inflicts a sick child through a blood transfusion, as is happening in Frederick County. It wasn't too long ago, after all, that a suburban Maryland school system was in chaos when parents refused to send their children to elementary school after a student was diagnosed with herpes.

In that vein, Brunswick's embrace of Cindy Gibson may cause some of us in the metropolitan area a little embarrassment. It's customary for city dwellers to look askance at their rural neighbors' supposed lack of sophistication in such matters. Suburbanites had to chuckle at the news last summer that Brunswickers were giddy about defeating a plan to fluoridate their water. The urbane conclusion: what backward, country bumpkins.

With regards to AIDS and one 17-year-old girl's right to the pursuit of happiness, however, the rest of us can only hope to have such enlightenment.

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