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Response to AIDS

January 09, 1987

In your editorial (Jan. 2), "The Injustice of AID Tests," you rather shortsightedly advocate neglecting AIDS screening programs by the federal government in favor of research for prevention and cure. While I share your hope that medical technology will rapidly accomplish these goals, your approach fails to take into consideration the very real possibility that your optimism may be ill-founded.

It is unfortunate that concern for individual rights may poorly serve the needs of society in general. It would appear that AIDS has already become pandemic in Central Africa; the nature of the virus and the disease gives us no particular certainty that a similar disaster will be avoided in this country.

Surely, a first step in the management of this fatal disease is identification of those affected. Despite the fact that a cure is not presently available, simple steps have been shown to reduce communicability remarkably. As well as preventing spread from adult to adult, we must not forget the very real risk to our unborn children.

You may have forgotten that California law requires testing for syphilis and rubella antibodies before a marriage license may be obtained. These tests are primarily for the protection of the unborn children of a marriage. Syphilis, fortunately, is rare; I would not be surprised if, in Los Angeles County, AIDS testing was as productive or more productive than testing for syphilis. (Yes, victims of AIDS infection may indeed get married!)

One should not forget that a simple measure for avoiding AIDS infection--the use of the condom--will also, in large measure, protect against most other, frequently serious, venereal diseases.

Until about 35 years ago there was no chemotherapeutic treatment for tuberculosis; screening X-rays were carried out on virtually the entire population, including school children. Those found to have infectious tuberculosis were packed off to the sanitarium, with or without their consent. Fortunately, in many cases the disease was arrested. Until antibiotics there was no means to prevent the spread of tuberculosis short of isolation.

Fortunately, it would appear that prevention of AIDS is much more likely if those carrying the disease can be identified and can take simple measures to protect their loved ones.

JOHN R. BOYD MD

Ventura

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