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Joey DiPaolo contracted HIV during a heart surgery in 1984. He required a blood transfusion, and the blood given to him came from an HIV-infected donor. DiPaolo had been diagnosed with ASD, a type of heart disease, and surgery was needed to save his life.
From 1985 to 1988, DiPaolo went through several episodes of sickness; although none of them were related to his heart. DiPaolo spent many days and nights suffering from different kinds of symptoms during that period.
In 1988, DiPaolo was diagnosed with HIV. At the time, doctors gave DiPaolo only one year to live.
Doctors told the DiPaolo family that it would be best for them to hide DiPaolo's condition, on the belief that keeping the condition a secret would be in the family's best interests.
DiPaolo, nevertheless, became a very active boy in school with the help of medicines, and he made friendships. He experienced a health improvement in 1989, and seemed to live the normal life that other children led.
In 1990, DiPaolo once again faced death: He became so ill early during that year that, at one point, doctors gave him only two days to live. He recovered, and later on, he was able to attend an AIDS funds gala, where he met NFL football player Lawrence Taylor. Taylor autographed a ball for DiPaolo, and the two had a photo taken together. DiPaolo had decided to uncover his secret about being HIV positive.
DiPaolo could not possibly imagine what kinds of problems the photo would bring him when it was published by a newspaper the next day: He was met with disdain by many of his schoolmates and their parents. Parents protested because they did not want DiPaolo to attend school with their children, and family friends turned their backs on the DiPaolo family, on the belief that by befriending the DiPaolo's, they had put their own lives at risk. Eventually, many of those that initially abandoned the family returned to be friends with the DiPaolos.
Joey DiPaolo faced crowds of protesters in front of his school for a period after he voluntarily took the step of disclosing his disease. A long, legal battle ensued between the DiPaolo family and parents of children of the school that DiPaolo went to. The parents were afraid that their kids could catch AIDS by being in contact with Joey, and they wanted Joey out of the school. At one point, Joey's father planned to move to New Jersey, where, he figured, Joey would be accepted to a new school.
Eventually, a New York court decided that Joey DiPaolo would stay in the educational center he attended.
The DiPaolo case made headlines internationally, and it was covered by different types of media, such as multiple television channels and newspapers. In 1992, HBO aired the Lifestories: Families in Crisis special "Blood Brothers: The Joey DiPaolo Story".
Later on, DiPaolo established a lawsuit against the center from which the blood with which he was contaminated came. He won the lawsuit.
Joey DiPaolo is currently an AIDS activist who meets and talks with many other AIDS patients yearly. Joey currently resides in Staten Island, with his girlfriend Lauren and operates a Barber shop in Tottenville.