SAN DIEGO — The escalating AIDS crisis, and its growing impact on San Diegans, has led to what is believed to be the first local collaboration between commercial radio and public television.
"AIDS: The San Diego Story," a joint production of news-talk radio station KSDO-AM (1130) and KPBS-TV (Channel 15), will be carried live on both stations today from 7 to 11 p.m.
The show will be devoted to live studio panel discussions, question-and-answer sessions and call-ins on such topics as medical information, current research, patient care, community support, health-care costs, education, prevention and various legal, political and ethical issues.
"Our purpose is to provide people with the latest information about AIDS, and, more importantly, to answer their questions," said Matthew Eisen of KPBS, co-producer of the program with KSDO's George Riley.
"There are so many misconceptions that need to be cleared up, so many questions people want answered: Should they be worried about shaking hands or using public restrooms? How can they protect themselves? Where can they turn for help? What are our doctors and researchers saying, what are our schools teaching, what is our government doing?
"Those are just some of the concerns we hope to address."
Since AIDS was first diagnosed in 1981, the county Department of Health Services has recorded 576 cases in San Diego, said Carol St. Cook, a health educator with the department. Nearly one-third of these cases, or 175, were reported during 1987 alone, she said.
"The numbers keep growing all the time," Cook said. "In fact, San Diego is currently second behind Dallas in the number of new AIDS cases per capita."
Accordingly, gay activists are pleased about the KSDO-KPBS venture.
"This is by far the most ambitious effort in that regard ever mounted by any local radio or TV station," said Rick Moore, who represents the gay and lesbian communities on the San Diego County Human Relations Commission's subcommittee on media and community relations.
"KSDO and KPBS are both to be congratulated for this major contribution to public understanding and education on a topic that despite all the attention it has received is still mysterious to a lot of people."
Eisen said the disease affects everyone, "regardless of whether we get the disease ourselves, know someone who has it, or eventually pay for it through higher insurance and hospital costs."
"And unlike an ABC telecast that gives you general information, everything in this program is geared toward San Diego. Our panel includes some of the leading local AIDS experts, from researchers and doctors to educators and lawyers, and they can tell people, 'This is what's going on in our city.'
"That's why this program is live, and why we're taking phone calls--we want San Diegans, both in the studio audience and at home, to participate and not just sit back and applaud. We're not here to preach to them; we're here to serve their needs."
Introducing each of four live segments will be video clips that range from profiles on San Diego AIDS sufferers to man-in-the-street interviews, and even a visit to a Logan Heights classroom in which sixth-graders are being taught about the disease.
"These videos provide a human aspect, an up-close look at the impact AIDS is having on the people of San Diego, as told by those people themselves," Eisen said. "And that's important, because AIDS is a disease that affects human beings, maybe even our friends, maybe even our neighbors, maybe even ourselves."
One of these clips includes conversations with four San Diegans whose lives have been directly affected by AIDS: a woman who watched her husband die of the disease; a gay man, dying of AIDS, who is living with his teen-age son, and a young housewife and a 15-year-old hemophiliac who contracted the virus through blood transfusions.
"I don't think anyone who has any feeling for other people can watch this clip and not be concerned and care," KSDO program director Jack Merker said. "And if enough people care, maybe through education we can not only prevent the spread of AIDS, but the continued spread of ignorance that leads to fear."
"AIDS: The San Diego Story" is co-hosted by Riley and KPBS talk-show host Gloria Penner. The 160-member studio audience, Merker said, includes several AIDS sufferers and their families; the 18 panelists include UC San Diego AIDS researcher Dr. David Hardy; county Department of Health Services director and AIDS education specialist Dr. William Cox; Lance Clem of the San Diego AIDS Project; AIDS legal expert Irene Cockcroft, and Jim Dunne of the Prevent AIDS Now Committee, which was behind last year's LaRouche-sponsored initiative calling for the quarantining of AIDS sufferers.
Both KSDO and KPBS will carry the four-hour program, which cost $100,000 to produce, without any commercial interruptions or news breaks.