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Red Ribbons and AIDS Awareness

September 15, 1993

* I am responding to Bob Guccione Jr.'s Column Left, "Red-Ribbon Smugness Is Too Easy" (Sept. 2). Guccione disregards the importance of ongoing HIV education to promote behavior change. Until general awareness translates into personal awareness, people will continue to practice risky behaviors such as unprotected sex or sharing needles and these people will eventually become infected with HIV.

His suggestion that HIV may not be affecting heterosexuals further obfuscates the importance of prevention, education and behavior change. The percentage of AIDS cases in the U.S. due to heterosexual contact has been on the rise since the beginning of the epidemic in 1981. The fastest growing number of new cases of AIDS is among women, 34% of whom contracted the virus through heterosexual contact. Worldwide, heterosexual contact accounts for 71% of the 2.5 million cases of AIDS. Everyone is at risk and must begin to practice safer sex or this epidemic will continue to grow.

I concur with Guccione on the need for more research to find a cure or vaccine. In the meantime, we must all take personal responsibility to reduce our own risk and stop the spread of HIV. There is something each of us can do. Get tested, practice abstinence or safer sex with a latex condom and don't share needles!

ANNE STAHL, HIV Health Educator

South Bay Free Clinic, Long Beach

* Regarding Guccione's column about wearing the red ribbon for personal gratification and political correctness: First, no, not everyone knows about AIDS, at least not enough. And as long as people continue to die from AIDS we need to continue increasing awareness. I agree that the red ribbon should not be used to block any path of AIDS research, but it is a symbol that I believe is still very important and says a lot more than "I care." Even if the red ribbon is worn for personal gratification or political correctness--so what! Maybe one person will notice it and think twice about sharing a syringe or not using a condom; and that's good enough for me.

NITASHA SAWHNEY

Newport Beach

* To read Bob Guccione Jr. lecturing self-righteously about people who abdicate responsibility, using "conveniently distracting semantics" to mask their true pursuit of the "pleasurable business of self-gratification" would be merely laughable if it weren't so outrageous. Coming from the son of Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione Sr., that pillar of moral responsibility, Jr.'s sermon seems grotesquely inappropriate. Perhaps righteousness should begin at home? Why does The Times participate in such nonsense?

RICHARD BAUM

Los Angeles

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