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In March and April of 1993, the City of Milwaukee’s drinking water suffered severe contamination with cryptosporidium, a parasite that caused gastrointestinal and diarrheal illness among 400,000 residents. For individuals with compromised immune systems, the effects of cryptosporidium were devastating and sometimes fatal. Many AIDS patients were hospitalized and 92 ARCW AIDS clients died as their depleted immune systems were incapable of eliminating the cryptosporidium parasite.


Through its case management system, ARCW worked closely with its 700 HIV and AIDS clients during the crisis. It provided them with clean water and monitored their health status on a daily basis in collaboration with Milwaukee physicians. ARCW advocated for all people with compromised immune systems, working closely with the Milwaukee City Health Department to develop a joint statement on cryptosporidium and recommendations for people with weakened immune systems. In response to ARCW’s advocacy, the City Health Department agreed to a dual public notification system of water-quality problems. It issued one category of alerts for the general population and another for individuals with weakened immune systems.