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AIDS and Discrimination

Last year the Los Angeles City Council banned discrimination against people with AIDS. On Wednesday the California Assembly followedsuit, voting 42 to 33 to do the same thing throughout California by adding people with acquired immune-deficiency syndrome to the list of those with physical handicaps against whom it is illegal to discriminate. The bill, AB 3667, sponsored by Assemblyman Art Agnos (D-San Francisco), now goes to the Senate, where it should be speedily approved.

The number of AIDS patients throughout the country and in California continues to grow, and the mortality rate from the disease remains above 50%. Every public-health estimate indicates that hundreds of thousands of people have been exposed to the AIDS virus through intimate sexual contact, and tens of thousands of them will some day develop the disease. But every shred of evidence demonstrates that AIDS cannot be casually or easily transmitted to others. So there is no reason to fear having AIDS patients in the workplace.

The unfortunate victims of this disease face enormous medical difficulties, and, to the extent possible, they should be shielded from social discrimination that has no basis in fact. The U.S. Justice Department is now considering whether to add AIDS to the federal list of protected handicaps. The state should take the lead and act before Washington does. It is the humanitarian and medically correct thing to do.


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