4 MONTROSE VOICE / FEBRUARY 27, 1987
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Gay Bars in El Paso
Sought for Testing
Recover with pride.
By Ken Flynn
EL PASO, Texas (UPI)—An after-hours
testing program for AIDS antibodies, to
be conducted at gay bars, will begin
"hopefully in the next few months," a
public health official said Feb. 19.
Dr. Laurance Nickey, director of the
City-County Health Unit, said health
officials are negotiating with owners of
gay bars to permit the voluntary tests to
prevent spread of the disease.
He said the high-risk group, gay men,
are reluctant to use public health facili-
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (UPI)-An
AIDS counseling service wants hotels
to hand out free condoms to vacationing
college students when they check in for
spring break this year.
The Rev. Fred Tondalo, director of
AIDS Center One, said that if he cannot
persuade the hotels to distribute the contraceptive devices along with AIDS
information pamphlets, he is considering having staff members walk along
the beach to give them out.
"People have to have access to unbiased information," Tondalo said. "Then
they can add or subtract bias as they see
fit. Anybody who is engaging in sex
without barrier contraceptives ... is
dealing with a Russian roulette game."
He said he already has met some resistance from hotels about the condoms,
but they may agree to distributing the
pamphlets. He said he would apply fora
permit to distribute the material on the
street if necessary.
Meanwhile, some hotel operators
were complaining that advance registrations from college students planning
to spend their vacations in Fort Lauderdale are way down this year.
"Business is terrible," said Roger
Handevidt, owner ofthe Ortgon Terrace
Motel, a 16-unit layout three blocks from
the beach. "Our bookings are down by
50 percent. I'm going to have one heck of
a setback this year. By May 1, I'm going
to be down $30,000."
Handevidt said the motel takes in
half its yearly revenues during the
spring break period from late February
to early April.
Some hoteliers said bookings are
down because Easter comes later this
year, April 19, and they expect business
to pick up later. Others blame lower
room rates at competing sites like Day-
tona Beach and the raising of the drinking age to 21.
They said that makes the Bahamas or
Mexico, where the drinking age is 18,
more attractive to those who can afford
to pay more. Boston University travel
agent David Teolis said in some cases,
the expense is not a great deal higher.
Week-long package trips to Nassau
have been advertised on the Boston
University campus for $379-$499, while
Fort Lauderdale packages cost $369-
Spring break business peaked in 1985
with an estimated 330,000 students visiting. The resulting bad publicity also
may have an impact on bookings this
The city reacted last year by putting
up a safety barrier between the street
and the beach and by tightly enforcing
ties during regular hours for fear of
being labeled as homosexual carriers of
He said off-site, after-hours testing is
already being conducted to protect the
anonymity of persons suspected of carrying the disease.
Tony Bengert, AIDS counselor for the
health unit, said the tests are being held
"in an informal atmosphere, where
homosexuals feel more at home."
Nickey said the testing is part of "our
tracking the disease and educating the
public." He said health officials are
"actively pursuing" agreements with
gay bar owners "and are getting their
"We will begin the testing program at
the bars just as soon as we both understand what our responsibilities are,"
Nickey said. "We are trying to get the
word out to everyone so they understand the health significance of this
Bengert said the tests are voluntary,
anonymous, and cost about $10 for
those who can pay, adding that no one
will be turned away if they can not
afford the fee.
Dr. Earl W. Gorby said there are 13
confirmed cases of AIDS in the El Paso
metropolitan area, and an estimated
800 to 1000 carriers of the disease.
Bengert said the Old Plantation, a
gay disco liar in its 10th year of operation, has offered its performers' dressing rooms for the testing. Bengert said
the testing in gay bars will be effective
because the high-risk group will feel
more comfortable in its own environment.
Health officials in El Paso have conducted counseling and testing nights at
a predominantly gay and lesbian non-
denominational church and at a city-
county health center, Bengert said-
Bob Bonaventure, owner of the Old
Plantation, said the disco attracts 500
customers on a busy night.
As of Feb. 2, a total of 30,396 cases of
the fatal disease have been diagnosed,
according to national statistics. More
than half those victims—17,338—have
died. About 70 percent of the disease's
victims have been homosexual and
Health officials estimated 2 percent of
the area's total population was infected
with AIDS last April, and in 10 months,
that rate has doubled to 4 percent,
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (UPI)-
Deaths from acquired immune deficiency syndrome rose from eight in 1983
to 149 at the end of January this year,
medical officials said.
Dr. Bisram Mahabir, director of the
Caribbean Medical Center, said about
75 percent ofthe cases were gay men. He
said 12 percent were women.
Mahabir, in a speech to the Lions
Club on Sunday, also warned that the
incidence of venereal disease normally
rises following carnival celebrations.
The pre-Lenten festivities will take
place in coming weeks.
February is Gay and Lesbian Media
Awareness Month—Sponsored by the Media
Fund for Human Rights and the Gay and
Lesbian Press Association.