The current discussion as expressed in the recent series of articles and the editorial on AIDS ("Crawling in Circles," Sept. 23) suggest to me the sound of the violin accompaniment to the fires of Rome. Not that it is bad fiddling. The dilemma facing those with the responsibility of formulating a strategy to deal with this most recent of Mother Nature's macabre jokes is awesome, given the social sub-text surrounding the subject of sexuality. This tugging and pulling over testing for an antibody to Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) is primarily driven by the fear of AIDS in the heterosexual community.
Meanwhile, the most important transmission pathway for HIV into this community is being essentially ignored--the sharing of dirty needles for intravenous drug use and society's difficulties in facing that subject. If one examines the statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and others, it becomes clear that approximately 70% of the women infected with HIV through sexual transmission are the sexual partners of intravenous drug users. This results in producing 80% of the babies who become infected neonatally. At least 50% of these babies go on to develop AIDS.
This transmission route for HIV infection could be stopped completely--tomorrow--yet no one with the power to do so has lifted a finger in that direction. The simple act of removing the prescription requirements for the purchase of hypodermic needles would shut off the main source of AIDS in the heterosexual community, yet not a single state or municipality has done so. Not that public health officials have failed to make the suggestion--they have in New York City, in San Francisco, in New Jersey and other places. In every instance they have been met with misdirected puritanism or by political cowardice.
We have the means to stop most of the AIDS diffusing into the heterosexual community just by making clean needles available. Let's do it!