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Education About a Specter

May 10, 1987

It is good news that the White House Domestic Policy Council is considering a national mailing of information about AIDS to every household in America. Good news, too, that Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III, chairman of the council, is suggesting that President Reagan should speak out on AIDS.

Knowledge that leads to prevention is the only way now known to retard this terrible epidemic.

The memo in which Meese assessed further government action seemed to tilt toward the mass-mailing, though it acknowledged that some citizens may object to getting some "objectionable information."

For the information to be useful, it must be explicit. It will by definition be thought objectionable by some people. But delicacy and reticence can only hinder the efforts that must be made to educate everyone on how AIDS is spread--commonly by semen and blood through anal and vaginal intercourse--and how to guard against it--by the use of condoms with spermicides, by practicing safe sex, by abstinence.

It is literally true that the people cannot know too much about AIDS and ways to prevent it. It is also true, as Dr. Neil R. Schram points out on the page opposite today, that public knowledge about AIDS, about how it is and is not spread, about what each person must do about it, is dreadfully inadequate. It must be addressed in the public schools especially. It must be addressed in the media. It must be addressed by government far more thoroughly and more widely than it has been. An explicit mass-mailing from the White House, with a message from the President, would be most useful.

It was especially encouraging to note that Meese's memo spoke about "the importance of separating public health policies and politics." AIDS is not to be toyed with. It is a specter that haunts us all.

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