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AIDS Tests

January 25, 1987

There is a commonly stated misconception about AIDS that was used in your editorial (Jan. 2), "The Unjustice of AIDS Tests." You concluded by saying that "The AIDS epidemic will not be thwarted by mandatory testing programs." You supported that statement by saying that "Preliminary evidence suggests that not all, perhaps not even most, people with the virus will develop AIDS."

While it is true that many who are carrying the AIDS virus in their blood may not develop AIDS (30% to 50% is the current estimate), it is generally accepted fact in the medical community that all of those who have the virus must be considered able to transmit to others. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, among others, has made that very clear. Since the purpose of testing is not so much to learn who will some day become sick because of the virus, but to learn who is contagious and therefore a threat to at least their sexual partners, your argument has no relation to the validity of mandatory testing.

I am not advocating general testing of the entire population. However, there is clear justification for testing some groups on a mandatory basis. For example, it would be appropriate to require tests prior to issuing marriage licenses and inform the prospective partner of the results. Testing of persons who are arrested for prostitution or use of illegal drugs would allow law enforcement and public health authorities to identify carriers of the virus who would be very likely to transmit the virus to others.

While I am deeply concerned that we not take actions that will compromise the civil rights of our people, there is clear justification for mandatory testing in certain situations and the fact that we do not yet know how many of those who test positive will ultimately be stricken with AIDS has absolutely nothing to do with the appropriateness of such programs.


Member of Congress

39th District


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