$5-Million AIDS Fund Approved by Assembly
Responding to public fears of a spreading AIDS epidemic, the Assembly on Thursday approved $5 million in extra state spending this year for research, services to patients and educational programs for the public and medical professionals.
The Legislature originally had included $11.6 million in supplemental funds for AIDS in this year’s budget but that was vetoed by Gov. George Deukmejian.
However, last week, in a speech calling the AIDS epidemic, “one of the great human tragedies of our time,” Deukmejian announced that he was willing to restore part of the amount that he had vetoed.
The new measure, by Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) was approved on a 61-3 vote and returned to the Senate, where it is likely to win swift approval.
Objects to Poster
In a brief but rancorous debate, Assemblyman Don A. Sebastiani (R-Sonoma) complained about controversial, state-financed AIDS educational campaigns aimed at homosexuals and drug abusers. He objected specifically to a widely distributed poster that cautioned gay men to “play safely"--an attempt to discourage indiscriminate sex.
Sebastiani said that it appeared to condone homosexuality and that he doubted that was “what God intended.”
But Assemblyman Mike Roos (D-Los Angeles) accused Sebastiani of ignoring reality, declaring: “This is a terrible, terrible epidemic. . . . There are promiscuous people in society, both gay and straight people.”
The money would be added to about $10 million already authorized for AIDS programs in the state budget.
Roos said that there are 3,000 AIDS victims in the state and that the number is doubling every nine months.
While there is no cure available for the fatal disease, which destroys the body’s ability to fight off infection, scientists have identified the virus responsible for it. The virus is known to spread through sexual contact, and through contaminated needles and blood products.
Homosexuals, intravenous drug users and hemophiliacs who depend on blood products to facilitate blood clotting are known to be at much higher risk of contracting AIDS than is the general community.
But there are concerns that the disease can spread to heterosexuals who are not in any of the high-risk groups.
In a related development, Dr. Kenneth Kizer, state health services director, reported that about 0.3% of blood donors have been found to have antibodies to the AIDS virus in their blood. That estimate means that as many as 1,000 of the 400,000 blood donors who have been tested by blood banks in recent months have been exposed to the virus.
But Kizer emphasized that it is not known how many of those individuals are likely to develop AIDS.
Findings Not Released
Under state law, the blood banks may not release their findings to individual donors until there are approved alternative AIDS antibody testing programs for non-donors available in their local communities. The alternative sites are being set up to discourage those who fear that they might have AIDS from donating blood just so they can be tested.
In some areas of the state, blood banks will begin early next month to notify their antibody-positive donors of the test results. But in other areas, including Los Angeles County, the notification will not begin for a few months.