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Compassion and Fear Over AIDS

July 18, 1987

The photograph of Markowski on the front page of the Metro section on July 11 must surely stand as a graphic example of how some people, even those in authority, continue to have mistaken ideas concerning the transmission of AIDS. Among the more than 50,000 cases of AIDS reported worldwide, not a single one has been linked to airborne spread of the virus.

Why then is this man wearing a mask? A month ago police in Washington D.C. who wore yellow gloves while arresting demonstrators were appropriately ridiculed. Has the news not reached our police that AIDS is not spread by casual contact; gloves are needed only when contact with blood is likely.

This kind of action in the face of the most serious health problem facing our nation serves only to divert the public's attention from the important methods of transmission: high-risk sexual behavior and intravenous drug abuse. Protection against infection with AIDS is important and possible, but your photograph does nothing to inform how this is achieved.

PETER N.R. HESELTINE, M.D.

Sherman Oaks

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