WASHINGTON — Vice President George Bush was jeered today as he endorsed President Reagan's call for wider testing for AIDS, but drew applause when he said testing must be kept confidential, a point his boss omitted in a major speech Sunday night.
Bush, delivering the keynote address at the opening of the Third International Conference on AIDS, said the No. 1 priority is clear: "We must absolutely protect those who do not have this disease."
But, he said: "This issue raises some difficult and troublesome questions for me. It puts in conflict the need for more information and knowledge to benefit the majority versus our constitutional right to privacy.
"As the President said (Sunday), the federal government will soon require testing for prisoners, immigrants and aliens seeking permanent residence," Bush said amid boos and shouts of "No!"
"We need education, we need testing, but only accompanied by guarantees that everyone is treated fairly," said Bush, who was applauded on that point. "It is absolutely imperative that those records are kept appropriately confidential."
Bush seemed distracted by the heckling and once appeared to lose his place in the speech he was reading. One man in the audience shouted, "We need a new President!" to scattered but energetic applause.
At the conclusion of his speech, while the microphones were still open, Bush remarked: "Who was that, some gay groups out there?"
Meanwhile, dozens of people were arrested outside the White House, where they had gathered today following a march to protest the Reagan Administration's response to the AIDS epidemic. Police began making arrests after the demonstrators crossed over a concrete barrier and sat down in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue to block traffic.
"Make no mistake about it," Bush told the conference of researchers. "AIDS is spreading and killing. It does not discriminate. It is an equal opportunity merchant of death.
"We must wage an all-out war against disease--not against people--against disease.