MARCH 20, 1987/MONTROSE VOICE 7
Nation's Controversial No.2 Health Official
By Tamara Henry
WASHINGTON (UPI)—Dr. Robert
Windom has explained health issues to
patients for 27 years as a practicing
physician and for 10 years as a Florida
television host, but as the nation's No. 2
health official, he may have some real
explaining to do.
Windom, who has been assistant
secretary of health nine months, was
criticized earlier this month when he
tried to explain to a Senate subcommittee why he wanted only a 28.5 percent
increase in federal dollars for AIDS
research and education.
He also landed in hot water late last
year when he mistakenly told reporters
at a luncheon that the Taiwan A flu
vaccine should be taken by everyone
under 35 years old and over age 65,
when, in fact, key health officials
recommended the vaccine only for persons with severe health conditions.
And in less specific matters, Windom
struggles to explain the recent rapid
technological advances within the
health care industry and refuses to predict the future, only to say: "I hope in the
next period of years we could have every
disease prevented by certain forms of
medical intervention, like vaccine."
Part ofthe problem stems from the job
itself. As assistant secretary for health,
Windom directs the activities of the
Public Health Service, a component of
the Department of Health and Human
Services, which with a $360 billion
budget is one ofthe largest federal agencies.
Windom has served as assistant
health secretary since June 1986, after
4 Super' Vaccine
SAN ANTONIO (UPI)—Testing of a
single vaccine designed to target three
sexual disease—AIDS, herpes and
hepatitis B—is under way at the
Southwest Foundation for Biomedical
"The approach looks very promising," Ronald C. Kennedy, an associate
scientist at the San Antonio research
center, said Monday.
"What we're doing now are potency
studies to determine how powerful it is
in small animals," Kennedy said.
The basis for the experimental vaccine is a weakened smallpox virus,
New York scientists, who first developed in 1985 a combination vaccine by
splicing herpes simplex II and hepatitis
B genes into the weakened smallpox,
invited the foundation to add genetic
material for AIDS.
Scientists at the San Antonio center
last month cut into the smallpox genetic
code machine-made parts of AIDS virus
Work is under way to make sure the
right AIDS genetic material spliced into
the unusual vaccine produces the
Some studies have indicated certain
antibodies produced in more traditional
vaccine approaches actually help the
virus infect white blood cells.
"If you make antibodies do the wrong
thing, you enhance infection," Kennedy
"We are still trying to determine
which pieces stay in and which pieces
come out," he said.
being nominated by President Reagan
and confirmed by the Senate. Before
joining HHS, he was a practicing physician, for 26 years, specializing in internal medicine in Sarasota, Fla.
For 10 years, Windom produced and
was the host on regular television programs on health topics in Florida.
The Public Health Service includes
the Health Resources and Services
Administration, the Alcohol, Drug
Abuse and Mental Health Administration, the Centers for Disease Control,
the Food and Drug Administration, the
National Institutes of Health, and the
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
"It's a constantly evolving and moving organization," said Windom in an
interview. "On top of that, we get new
diseases, new threats—tampering, for
example—and we get problems of new
diseases, like AIDS, and other manifestations of old diseases.
"The Public Health Service has
evolved and is going along with the
times, and even been ahead of it at
times," said Windom.
Acquired immune deficiency syn-
10 Million May
GENEVA (UPI)—As many as 10 million people are believed to be infected
with the virus that causes AIDS, the
director of the World Health Organization's AIDS program said Thursday.
Dr. Jonathan Mann said between 4
percent and 15 percent of healthy adults
in some parts of the world carry the
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
and related retroviruses.
But the figure is as high as 60 percent
to 80 percent in high-risk groups, Mann
told an international symposium on
Mann said prospects appear encouraging for a vaccine against HIV, the
virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome. People with the virus
do not necessarily develop AIDS.
"However, the development of a vaccine of proven efficacy and safety,
should it be feasible, is a long-term
objective that, at best, will take several
years to accomplish," Mann said.
He said the current 42,000 reported
cases of AIDS worldwide "represents
only a fraction" ofthe real total because
of "reticence in reporting from some
areas combined with under-recognition
of AIDS and under-reporting to
national health authorities."
It is more significant, Mann said, that
91 countries have by now officially
reported cases of the disease to WHO.
That figure is more relevant when
assessing the "extraordinary scope and
unprecedented urgency ofthe HIV pandemic," he said.
"The numbers of AIDS cases provides, at best, an inaccurate and, at
worst, a misleadingly optimistic view of
the real extent and intensity of HIV
infection," Mann told the symposium.
"WHO estimates that between 5 million and 10 million persons are currently infected with HIV," said Mann,
Testing possible AIDS vaccines will
be "complex, difficult, and time-
consuming," he warned.
"An AIDS vaccine for general use will
not be available, if at all, before 1991
and is unlikely to be available before the
mid-1990s," Mann said.
drome has become a key focus of the
Centers for Disease Control based in
The National Institutes of Health
recently announced the development of
a new vaccine for whooping cough that
may eliminate the serious side effects of
the current vaccine. A pilot study of 100-
150 children 18 months old is about to
start in Massachusetts.
Windom describes the NIH as "the
mecca of health research in the world,"
starting in 1887 as an attic-room laboratory in the Marine Hospital on Staten
Island, N.Y. It is considered the symbol
of high-technology medicine; the last-
resort clinic where people may turn for
the latest experimental therapies when
conventional remedies have failed.
Even the Public Health Service itself
had humble beginnings. It came into
being in 1798 as the Marine Hospital
Service when President John Adams
signed into law an act providing for the
"care and relief of sick and disabled seamen."
With all the recent changes in the
health care field, Windom rejected the
idea that society may be moving toward
"This pendulum has been swinging
for a long time, you know," Windom
said. "There are trends that go back and
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