An AIDS Nursing Home Finds It Is No Longer the Last Stop
By Lynda Richardson
The New York Times
January 25, 1997
While new drugs have made many patients stronger, officials at Rivington House and elsewhere see danger in the growing sense of optimism among those who have concluded that the disease is soon to be beaten.
"I don't think we've turned the corner," said Linda A. Domizio, director of professional services at Rivington House. "I think it's too premature to make any projections about what's going to happen in the future. It's a very difficult regimen to adhere to. And we don't know what the long-term effects are going to be."
But the new drugs have given many people with AIDS a glimmer of hope. At the Rivington House, a six-story, red-brick structure that used to be a public school, patients are talking about getting their G.E.D.s, getting jobs, even getting their teeth fixed. The corridor walls are decorated with brightly colored artwork, painted by patients. A golden retriever, named Dinah, nuzzles patients and prowls halls.
But despite the center's welcoming atmosphere, Joseph Breen is eager to leave at the end of the month. Mr. Breen, who has been on protease inhibitors for nearly a year, looks forward to going back to his acting career.
Breen, who is 38, has had side effects including a painful kidney stone attack that sent him weeping to a hospital emergency room. He switched medications.
Mr. Breen, who has three children and a ex-wife in Connecticut, said he used to be a leading man in television soap operas including GUIDING LIGHT, AS THE WORLD TURNS and LOVING. At one point, he said, he was making more than $300,000 annually, but three years of unemployment have left him with only Social Security disability benefits.
Mr. Breen will move to a house run by the Actor's Fund of America, for entertainers who have AIDS. Some days he believes he will have a normal life expectancy. But on a recent day, after he experienced a night of discomfort from kidney problems, he asked a staff worker if he would live to see a cure.
"I will never stop taking these AIDS medications until there is a proven cure," he said yesterday. ""You can't play around with this disease."
From an interview with country music singer Carlene Carter (who married Breen in 2006) in January 2011:
But life is really good now," she continues. "I'm trying to put a box set together for the fall. The working title is Thirty-three And A Third, because I'll have been in the business that long. And Joe [actor husband Joseph Breen] and I are writing a script for a TV show based on when we first met and moved to L.A.--and he's working on his acting career. So we're just churning along and I'm feeling optimistic about 2011, that it will be a really great year all around."