Schabarum View on AIDS
I was disappointed with the article (Sept. 9), “Anti-AIDS Forces Fire at Supervisors,” because it allowed a special interest group to make allegations that the Board of Supervisors is dragging its feet on financing public education programs about the deadly disease, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, without telling the public the whole story.
In Los Angeles County, the total number of reported cases of AIDS has exceeded 1,000. Moreover, since the epidemic began in 1981, almost 600 people have died from the disease. That qualifies AIDS as a serious public health problem.
Several weeks ago, the state AIDS Advisory Board recommended that the state bypass the county Department of Health Services by awarding $1.25 million in AIDS public education money directly to private agencies serving the gay community. That recommendation was based on the assertion that the Board of Supervisors is insensitive to the problems of the gay community. It was also done without the advisory board members appearing before the board to express their concerns.
Then, a pamphlet entitled, “Mother’s Handy Sex Guide,” sponsored jointly by the Gay and Lesbian Community Center and the AIDS Project/Los Angeles came to my attention. The material contained in the pamphlet, intended as health education information targeted at the gay community, is hard-core pornographic trash. Because I felt any taxpayer reading its contents would have legitimate questions as to the propriety of spending public funds on its printing and distribution, I discussed the matter at a public meeting.
I assure you, if the state Department of Health Services thinks such material should be paid for with public funds, then the decision to bypass the county was a good one. I will not be associated with the expenditure of taxpayer funds for such “educational” purposes.
If The Times thinks the pamphlet has merit as educational material, I challenge you to say so in an editorial and to print its contents so your readers can judge for themselves the appropriateness of this literature.
The members of the state AIDS Advisory Board are clearly using a litmus test that measures an elected official’s concern about AIDS based upon how much money is allocated for public education. They want the Board of Supervisors to spend $1.5 million on the subject. They care little about the fact that the County of Los Angeles is experiencing financial difficulties and does not have large amounts of money to spend on any new programs.
There is some question as to whether more money is needed beyond what the state has already allocated. Public opinion polls indicate that the general public is well aware of AIDS. Most people know how it is spread. So, one could make the argument that the press is already conducting an outstanding public education campaign at no cost to taxpayers.
The county Department of Health Services devotes a tremendous amount of time educating the public about AIDS. This is conveniently overlooked by those who apparently want only to discredit the Board of Supervisors. Yet, there is still a great deal of misinformation and hysteria about the disease. Certainly, I recognize the need for accurate health information on the subject of AIDS; it can save lives. However, that does not mean that we should lose sight of the fact that taxpayers will insist on decency and good taste.