The federal government, under prodding from Congress, proposes to spend $120 million next year for medical research into acquired immune-deficiency syndrome, the fatal disease that threatens to become a national epidemic. While that money is most welcome, researchers say that more money could accomplish more. So some people are preparing to organize a private nationwide organization like the American Cancer Society to raise and spend millions more in a coordinated scientific effort to stamp out AIDS. This is an excellent idea.
Though the number of AIDS cases to date has been relatively small when compared to cancer or heart disease or smoking-related deaths, AIDS is caused by a sexually transmittable virus that has the potential for burgeoning into a full-scale epidemic if not halted.
It has proved to be an elusive and baffling disease, and researchers predict that it will be several years before they devise a vaccine or a cure. If the pace of new cases continues, thousands of people will be stricken and will die before medical help arrives. Anything that can be done to hasten that help is money well spent.
There is a limit, of course, to how much Washington can spend on one disease when there are other diseases that also cry out for attention. But that does not prevent individuals from donating privately to support additional medical research. For the last five years many people have dismissed AIDS as a disease that threatens somebody else, but now they understand that everyone is at risk. It is essential that AIDS be stamped out. Private money is as effective as public money in this crucial work.