Officials of an Ohio youth football league have reversed their decision to bar a former firefighter with AIDS from helping coach his 7-year-old son's team. Stephen Derrig, 36, was barred last week from acting as assistant coach to the team of nearly 40 boys. But the Ellet Suburban Football League's board reversed its decision after talking with medical personnel and meeting with a lawyer, league president Mike Moye said. Moye said the board will require the players' parents to sign a waiver acknowledging they know of Derrig's HIV status.
Two weeks ago league director Dan Gable said he began receiving anonymous calls from people identifying themselves as players' parents concerned about Derrig's HIV status and the possibility he might expose the players to the virus. Barbara Gripshover, medical director of the John D. Carey special immunology unit at University Hospitals of Cleveland, said concern for the children's safety is unnecessary. "The only way AIDS is spread is through sex, sharing needles with an infected person, or blood transfusions," she said. "None of these will happen on a football field." Derrig, a firefighter and paramedic, contracted HIV when he came into contact with blood and bodily fluids of people he was called on to help. He is now retired on disability, and medication helps keep the virus in check.