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Nationwide Blitz on AIDS
By Jan Ziegler
UPI Science Writer
WASHINGTON (UPI)—The government, beginning a nationwide information blitz to combat the spread of AIDS,
will recommend that tens of thousands
of Americans, who received routine
blood transfusions be tested for the
The U.S. Public Health Service, in a
bulletin that was expected to be released
Thursday, will say physicians should
consider offering AIDS tests to people
who had transfusions from 1978 when
the disease first began appearing to
April 1985 when blood banks began better screening, NBC News reported.
It also will suggest tests are more
important for those who received multiple transfusions and for sexually active
recipients because if infected they
would be more likely to pass the disease
M. Roy Schwarz, director of medical
education for the American Medical
Association in Chicago said on the NBC
"Today" program that a "very, very
small" percentage ofthe approximately
34 million to 36 million Americans who
received blood transfusions between
1978 and 1985 may find themselves in a
"high-risk" situation—people who
received multiple transfusions and live
near New York. San Francisco and Los
Schwartz said the odds are 0.06 percent that a person would be found to
have the virus. "But I think if you're a
person who had multiple transfusions,
those numbers don't mean anything.
You ought to know if you are at risk."
Estimates of those who received the
transfusions and may have the AIDS
virus range from 12,000 to 20,000 people.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., told
CBS's "The Morning Program" that the
government does not have the funds for
AIDS testing or counseling. "And we
don't even have the confidentiality in
place, which would allow people to feel
free to come forward for that testing."
Waxman said there are waiting lists
for people who want to be tested in New
York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
"We need more testing facilities. We
need more people to counsel."
Waxman said testing is "going to be a
very, very expensive proposition. If we
ask people to pay for it themselves, just
the testing may well be $50 to $200."
The government information plan
released Monday does not address testing, concentrating, instead, on mass
media advertising and school education
to get people to be more cautious about
their sexual contacts and is also
designed to induce drug abusers to
avoid sharing needles.
"Our best hope today for controlling
the AIDS epidemic lies in educating the
public about the seriousness of the
threat, the ways the AIDS virus is transmitted and the practical steps each person can take to avoid acquiring it or
spreading it," Health and Human Services Secretary Otis Bowen said in a preface to the plan.
The acquired immune deficiency syndrome virus is spread by intimate sexual contact and contaminated blood or
needles. People are being urged to
remain in strictly faithful monogamous
relationships or use a condom.
The plan was released Monday by Dr.
Robert Windom, assistant secretary for
health, before a subcommittee of the
House Committee on Government Operations.
The plan uses as a base the 22 guidelines on AIDS issued between 1982 and
1986 by the Public Health Service and
calls for cooperation among all
branches of government, professional
and service organizations and the private sector.
"Everyone must be aware of behavior
that puts them at risk," the plan said.
To reach the public at large, the plan
recommends a mass media campaign
under contract with a major advertising
agency, forming a coalition of public
and private sector groups to exchange
and coordinate education efforts, setting up an information clearinghouse
and continuing to support a toll-free
AIDS hotline, in existence since 1983.
Among the recommendations for education of school-age and college stu
dents are a national coalition on AIDS
education, development of programs
especially for black and Hispanic youth
and providing extra help in areas with a
heavy percentage of AIDS cases.
"The scope and content ofthe school
portion of this AIDS education effort
should be locally determined and
should be consistent with parental
values," Bowen's statement said.
Public Health Service spokesman
James Brown said an advertising
agency will be contracted in June, while
the national coalition and clearinghouse are in the works. Plans are just
beginning for the school coalition, he
The cost of starting programs called
for in the plan will be covered by the $70
million education appropriation in the
1987 budget and the $104 million
requested in the fiscal 1988 budget, he
The financing does not, however,
include another tactic under consideration at PHS: direct mailings about
AIDS to every household in the country,
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By De'Ann Weimer
UPI Capitol Reporter
AUSTIN (UPI)—Conservative lawmakers grilled State Health Commissioner Robert Bernstein March 13 for
not advocating abstinence as a way for
gay men to avoid contracting AIDS.
"Organized agencies have joined in
what I consider a propaganda campaign of delusion, (by saying) that this
disease AIDS is not particularly related
to the homosexual community,"
charged Rep. Bill Ceverha, R-Dallas.
Bernstein and Dr. Ron J. Anderson,
chairman of the Board of Health,
appeared before the House Appropriations Committee to testify on the
Department of Health's budget for the
Some lawmakers chose to question
Bernstein and Anderson on the Health
Department's seeming failure to lobby
for stricter laws to control the spread of
"I certainly cannot tell people when to
have sex and who to have it with," Bernstein said in response to Ceverha's suggestion that the state consider making
sexual activities between homosexuals
of higher illegality than its current level
of Class C misdemeanor.
"What bothers me about the whole
thing is somehow or another our official
agencies, yours included, are trying to
perpetuate a myth that says 'don't
worry homosexuals, this is not a homosexual disease,'" Ceverha said.
"And what we're telling those people
is to go ahead and go on about their
business, practice safe sex," while the
accumulated evidence shows that gays
still run the risk of contracting the disease, he said.
"That is totally unfair to those young
individuals who are involved in that
activity. I have never seen anything
come out that said, 'Don't engage in
homosexual activities because you
stand a good chance of contacting the
disease and you're going to die,"'
Anderson argued that sodomy laws
are not effective because they drive
AIDS victims underground, making it
impossible for health officials to track
"I'm a First Baptist and so I'm not
trying to tell you I'm for an alternative
lifestyle," Anderson told committee
members. "But at the same time, I think
sometimes we let our prejudice towards
homosexuals get in the way ofthe public health problems we have to deal
"The most fundamental of us are having to work this out and sort out our
priorities," he said.
Comparing the disease to an epidemic
of small pox, Rep. Tom Waldrop, D-
Corsicana, queried Bernstein on the
feasibility of quarentining AIDS
patients and carriers.
Unlike small pox, Bernstein said
someone must "go out of their way" to
contract AIDS and quarentining would
serve no purpose because the disease is
spread by intimate sexual contact only.
Anderson worried that discrimination against AIDS victims has placed
the burden of carrying for victims ofthe
disease on the state.
Individuals identified as carriers frequently lose their jobs, homes, and insurance because their tests results become