WASHINGTON — AIDS infections are about twice as common among men in the Navy and Marines as men in other branches of the armed services, according to statistics released today.
Military doctors said this is most likely because Navy bases are located in parts of the country where AIDS is most common.
The report found that 2.2 of every 1,000 men in the Navy and Marines are infected with the AIDS virus. The rate is 1.1 in the Army and 1.2 in the Air Force.
The infection rate varies only slightly among women in the different branches. Generally there were 0.5 cases per 1,000 women.
Dr. Robert Redfield of the Walter Reed Army Institute in Washington attributed the higher Navy figures to "geographic variability."
"Our bases are coastal," he said. "The East Coast and West Coast is where the heart of the epidemic is."
The figures were presented at the Third International Conference on AIDS by Dr. Donald S. Burke of Walter Reed.
He agreed that geography explains the Navy difference. However, when asked whether homosexuality might be more common in the Navy, he responded, "That's a possibility as well."
However, Redfield discounted this idea.
"I would anticipate that there isn't any difference in homosexuality in any population, be it the Army, Navy, Marines or IBM," he said. "A certain percentage of men in any population are going to be homosexual."
Burke was hissed by some members of the audience at the conference when he suggested that military service actually protects people from AIDS infections. He said this is because the military prohibits homosexuality and drug use.