Restak’s article was long overdue. I have watched in amazement for the past two weeks at the efforts of the L.A. City Council and New York City School District to protect the rights of AIDS victims. These efforts are well-intentioned but badly misplaced.
As Restak points out, the simple, inescapable fact is that scientists do not yet fully understand neither the infectivity nor the communicability of the AIDS virus. The virus has been isolated from saliva, yet it is not known whether a simple cough or sneeze in the face is sufficient to infect others.
Given the pathogenicity of AIDS, this worst-case scenario must be assumed, and prudent public health measures should be taken.
Certainly, children with AIDS should not be enrolled in schools. We all know how frequently children in school are sick with colds, are injured with nosebleeds, cuts, scrapes, and are in close contact throughout the day. Paradoxically, however, occupational restrictions for adult AIDS victims are not as clear cut, precisely due to the lack of information on the disease.
But this is a problem for the epidemiologists, not public officials. Until more answers are found, politicizing the AIDS issue is an inappropriate solution to a public health crisis.