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Small Steps in AIDS Fight

February 14, 1988

Two small, but unfortunately necessary, steps were taken last week in the battle against AIDS.

First, and most important, the San Diego City Council followed the lead of the county Board of Supervisors in adopting an ordinance prohibiting discrimination against people with AIDS or AIDS-related complex. This action was overdue.

The other step was more controversial. The county adopted public health regulations prohibiting most sexual activity in bathhouses, and it has urged the city, where all of the bathhouses are located, to follow suit.

The effect of these rules on the spread of AIDS may be minimal. Bathhouses serve only a small segment of the homosexual community, and it is estimated that 30% of gay men in the county already carry the AIDS virus.

But AIDS is a health problem of such magnitude that even small steps must be taken. As of December, 727 people countywide had been diagnosed with AIDS and more than half of those had died.

The regulations are not without a price, however. Individual liberty is sacrificed when government gets into the business of restricting sexual activity between consenting adults. Also, the legal costs of defending the regulations could mean spending funds that would be better used to help AIDS victims.

Some of the legal costs might be avoided if the city adopts a similar ordinance, which could be easier to defend in court. We hope that the city will do so.

While such regulations may be necessary to help save lives, they are only a small step. They are no substitute for much-needed funds for support services for AIDS patients.

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