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Safe Sex and AIDS

July 09, 1993

In response to "A Woman-to-Woman Call to Arms," Commentary, June 29:

For years, public health officials have been educating us to the fact that AIDS is an equal opportunity disease and that all sexually active persons--male, female, heterosexual, homosexual, Anglo, African-American, Asian, Latino--must practice safe sex. In the absence of a long-term, exclusive, drug-free, HIV-negative relationship, this means using condoms.

Now Dr. Antonia C. Novello informs us that we should make an exception for Latino men, who apparently don't like to use condoms. She urges Latina women to demand a method of protection against AIDS "that is affordable, easy to use, odorless, stainless, and unobtrusive," that does not require permission from their partners, and that "allows for conception, should that be wished." (In the absence of some unimaginable breakthrough technology, this sounds like abstinence combined with artificial insemination.)

Get with it, Dr. Novello. I support respect for cultural differences. But these differences, including the "traditional role" of Latino men, do not justify absolving them from their responsibility to take appropriate precautions against AIDS. The U.N. High Commission on Human Rights wisely concluded at its recent conference in Geneva that "cultural differences" do not justify violation of basic human rights, including the rights of women and children. Nor do "cultural differences" justify refusal by anyone--including Latino men--to practice safe sex to prevent transmission of AIDS to their partner.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday July 14, 1993 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 6 Column 5 Metro Desk 1 inches; 20 words Type of Material: Correction
AIDS cases--A letter on AIDS from Jeanne Grossman (July 9) should have stated that the number of AIDS cases diagnosed since 1981 is 290,000.

Nobody likes to use condoms, but it is a behavioral change that responsible, sexually active persons have had to make to protect themselves and their partners from AIDS. I support Novello's call to Latina women to stand up for themselves and take responsibility for their lives. She should be equally demanding of Latino men.

JULIE VAN CAMP

Los Angeles

* My son was gay and he died of AIDS. But that was 1991, and he being a homosexual, he was considered expendable.

But whoa! What happened? Magic Johnson, a real person, is diagnosed with HIV; Arthur Ashe died; heterosexuals, women and children being infected and affected. That puts a different face on this scourge. These are real people, not the undesirables.

What a sad commentary; this cruel discrimination has added horror and numbers to this crisis.

President Clinton is taking a step in the right direction by appointing an AIDS czar. Shame on Ronald Reagan, shame on George Bush. "A potentially preventable disease continues to expand relentlessly . . . " states the report of the National Commission on AIDS (June 29). About 29,000 cases have been diagnosed since 1981. Sixty percent of these people have died. What are we going to do about it? Straight and gay alike?

JEANNE GROSSMAN

Palm Springs

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