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AIDS and Privacy: Replies to the Dornan and Bennett Letters

October 23, 1988

In response to Sallie Dornan's letter in last Sunday's paper (Oct. 16), I share her concern about the pain and anguish caused by her inadvertent statement about her brother and the erroneous information regarding his having AIDS.

However, I think this situation demonstrates an extremely important point about AIDS being not just any sexually transmitted disease. Had her brother had gonorrhea or syphilis we would not have seen the hue and cry from the media. Proponents of Proposition 102, including Congressman Robert Dornan, would remove the confidentiality and anonymous testing so essential to the protection of human rights and make reporting mandatory of all HIV positive individuals or even people suspected of being positive. This could result in many others suffering the pain that Mrs. Dornan endured. We are not just facing an epidemic of AIDS but an even more deadly insidious disease called fear .

If Proposition 102 passes, thousands of individuals like Mrs. Dornan's brother will be placed in a situation where their jobs, health insurance and very existence is in jeopardy. As if that is not bad enough, the already overburdened health-care system will be forced to spend millions of dollars in contact tracing.

Proposition 102 is written in such a way that no changes in the content can be made without taking the issue back to the initiative process. This alone demonstrates the ignorance of the authors, since we are constantly seeing scientific advances that require intelligent and appropriate intervention by experts. After all, do you go to your congressman when you are ill? Public health decisions should be made by the experts, not the politicians.

I do appreciate the pain of Mrs. Dornan, and I called her husband's office to offer my sympathy and help when I first heard about her brother. Now I ask Mrs. Dornan to look at the thousands of loved ones of persons with AIDS and infected with the AIDS virus and ask her help in the fight against the disease--not the people.

PEARL JEMISON-SMITH, RN

Chair, AIDS Coalition to

Identify Orange County Needs

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