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Facing Up to AIDS Problem

December 10, 1986

I was appalled to see headlines quoting male homosexual AIDS victims as saying "We are not lepers."

No, the AIDS patients you quoted are not lepers. AIDS is an infinitely more serious disease: it's transmittable by a single contact, it's incurable, and so far it's 100% fatal. None of these factors is true of Hansen's disease (leprosy).

The only comparison between the two diseases is the stigma inflicted on the sufferers. Any leprosy stigma in the 20th-Century United States is irrational, and you've done a disservice by resurrecting it.

Rather than fill your headlines with an AIDS sufferer's shrill distaste for leprosy, you should recognize that the AIDS stigma is in no way lessened by pointing equally stigmatizing fingers at leprosy victims.

CAROLE ZAHN

Los Angeles

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