The AIDS Dilemma

Certainly these days, as we open our morning copies of The Times, we are drowning in article after article on the subject of AIDS. However, two articles (Editorial Pages, Sept. 13) appeared side by side, which paint a very clear picture of the real dilemma facing all of us as we sit in our homes trying to understand how our everyday lives are being changed by this frightening disease.

On that day, the article, “AIDS Isn’t a Civil-Rights Issue, It’s a Genuine Plague” by Richard Restak MD appeared directly above the article by Johnny Greene entitled, “To Lose Rights and Health Is Devastating.” Both writers made persuasive arguments for their opposing points of view, but each called only for an emotional response to this issue where objective, clearly thought-out answers are what is really needed.

Dr. Restak makes an excellent point when he states that medical experts have not yet concluded as to the degree of contact required to transmit acquired immune-deficiency syndrome. He shows us several good examples of how the new city ordinance preventing discrimination against AIDS sufferers prevents the public from protecting themselves in these risk situations. However, Restak’s use of the words “plague” and “quarantine” strike a new note of fear in many people, conjuring images of death and concentration camps.

Greene’s article, on the other hand, makes no pretense at logic or objectivity as he talks of unemployment assistance, moving out of his apartment, and facing poverty. Reaching for as much emotional response as possible, he tells how such an enlightened, compassionate law as we have in Los Angeles would change the lives and deaths of many of his friends. We have yet to see how such a quickly thrown together and vague law would stand up in court, much less change lives.


In spite of all his call for blind justice to have a heart, Greene states in his first paragraph, “I’m not talking about high-risk jobs.” What does he call a “high-risk job”? No one seems to want to get into the difficult problems of detailed definitions or real plans to help the public as a whole. Choosing up sides and maintaining only a narrow viewpoint of the situation doesn’t help anyone.

Fear is the key ingredient in the handling of the AIDS situation right now. People want to be told that we know all the facts about this disease so that they can feel safe from it as long as they do not have sexual relations with an AIDS sufferer or have a blood transfusion.

According to Thomas J. Spira MD, of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, the third largest group of AIDS sufferers have an undefined risk factor. This means that we do not know how these people contracted the disease. This represents 7% of the total known AIDS victims at this time.

The truth about AIDS is that the known facts are changing every day and will probably continue to change. It’s time for all the emotional overreactions on both sides of the controversy to be recognized and put aside. It is important that we all try to keep an open mind. In the midst of all the confusion there must lie a middle ground that protects both the rights of the victims as well as the good of society as a whole. But, as long as we allow the emotion of fear to cloud our judgment in this issue, we will never be able to find that middle ground.



Los Angeles