Why does The Times insist on contributing to AIDS-related ignorance by splashing the phrase "AIDS Test" all over your headlines and throughout your stories ("Public Reaction Mixed to Prenuptial AIDS Test" by Beth Ann Krier, Feb. 4)?
There is no test for AIDS. An "AIDS Test" would tell a person if he or she has AIDS, just like a test for hepatitis B or gonorrhea tells a person if he or she has hepatitis B or gonorrhea.
There is only a test for antibodies to HIV, the virus many clinicians suspect is a causative agent for AIDS. The test tells you whether or not you have developed antibodies to HIV. If the test is positive, it means only that you've been exposed to HIV. Maybe you'll go on to get AIDS. Maybe you won't.
Seem like minor points to you? Unfortunately, your misleading phrasing and headlines contribute to making our work much more difficult. When we inform people that they test positive for the HIV antibodies, we often have to work very hard to convince them that this does not mean they have AIDS.