The Littlest Victims

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The Littlest Victims is a 1989 CBS produced bio-drama about Dr. James Oleske, the first U.S. physician to diagnose AIDS in children during the epidemic's early years when it was widely thought to be spread only though homosexual sex. It starred Tim Matheson as Oleske and was first broadcast on April 23, 1989.


In 1982, Oleske is practicing medicine at Newark, New Jersey's New Jersey Medical School when he discovers several of his pediatric patients failing to thrive and suffering from what appears to be suppressed immune systems. Most of his patients are impovershed inner city African Americans and Hispanics who are either intravenous drug users or the heterosexual partners thereof. His efforts to convince the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of the magnitude of this threat falls on largely deaf and hesitant ears, while a Bible belt senator resents having his tax dollars spent on homosexuals and drug users.

Later, he receives a report from the CDC about infected transfusions and blood products and finds one of his pediatric patients had received blood from a donor who later developed the disease, much to the anger of the patient's family. TV reporters appear in the hospital wearing disposable latex gloves, surgical clothes and masks, afraid of becoming infected by being in the same room or building with Oleske. Another of his patients, an adult female former prostitute and drug user, is informed by him that her child has the disease, indicating that its virus was passed to her child through her blood while she was pregnant, meaning that she was infected before she gave up drugs and prostitution. This news causes her to abandon her child and return to her former lifestyle. The publicity of Oleske's work on AIDS also causes problems with his family in his private life, as his school age children are subjected to ridicule from their peers about this. In 1984, the AIDS virus is discovered, the addicted mother's child dies and is buried in a Gospel music style funeral and Oleske finally receives approval of his work from the CDC and promises to continue his work among his patients, even though they will eventually die young.