Kroger, the nation's largest supermarket chain, has been accused of discrimination for refusing to let a boy infected with the AIDS virus use a supervised play area in the store.
The boy, Georgio Lee Chacon, was not allowed into PePe's Playhouse at a Kroger Company store last year while his guardian, Barb Cordle, shopped. Georgio was 6 at the time. Ms. Cordle objected, and has received support from the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and an association of doctors.
"We fear that other corporations may look to this example and say, perhaps, that a child who is playing in our playground poses a direct threat, or a child who is enrolled in our day-care center presents a danger to other children," said Jose Zuniga, deputy director of the Chicago-based International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care.
Ms. Cordle filed a complaint with the state Civil Rights Commission, which on July 24 determined that Kroger had probably engaged in unlawful discrimination. Last month, the commission gave the case to the state attorney general.
Kroger has denied any discrimination, telling the commission it had no obligation to provide child care to the boy. Among its reasons were: "He has a contagious or infectious disease" and "He is a direct threat to the safety of himself, other children" and playhouse attendants.
Georgio has been infected with the AIDS virus since birth and has cerebral palsy. His mother died of AIDS in 1995.