AIDS Ballot Measure Attacked on 2 Fronts
State Health Director Kenneth Kizer on Tuesday accused the Lyndon LaRouche followers who placed an AIDS initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot of wrongfully using his name, while the attorney general dealt the measure a blow by concluding that it could cost taxpayers millions of dollars more than first expected.
At a press conference here, Kizer said the LaRouche backers misled voters by including his name in statements they submitted for the official ballot pamphlet to be sent to all voters before the election.
He demanded that his name be deleted before the pamphlet is published, and Secretary of State March Fong Eu agreed Tuesday afternoon.
The measure, designated Proposition 64 on the ballot, would give AIDS the legal status of an infectious disease and would attempt to bar AIDS victims and carriers of the AIDS antibody from jobs in restaurants, schools and medical facilities. It would specifically authorize quarantines of acquired immune deficiency syndrome victims and give officials the authority to order blood tests and report the results to the state.
The LaRouche group’s ballot statements, which have become controversial on several counts, included a paragraph that states: “Many health officials are demanding public health measures. Dr. Kizer, California’s top health official, has called for more reporting and testing powers.”
That is apparently a reference to Kizer’s request last April for broader state powers to require that potential AIDS victims undergo testing. Kizer also proposed that the state loosen its promise to keep test results confidential. Both are steps the LaRouche-affiliated initiative sponsors, Prevent AIDS Now Initiative Committee (PANIC), have recommended.
However, Kizer said Tuesday that he has never supported the initiative and in the past has described its backers as “ill-informed and misguided on this issue.”
“What is the most upsetting to me is they have used my name and implied my support for the initiative,” he said Tuesday.
Unlike most of the state’s medical leadership, which has strongly blasted the initiative as a threat to the fight against AIDS, Kizer said the state Department of Health Services is still studying Proposition 64 and will take a position within a few weeks.
The LaRouche group’s ballot arguments were also attacked Tuesday by the California Medical Assn. The physician group’s president, Gladden V. Elliott, joined the heads of the California Hospital Assn. and the California Nurses Assn. in signing a rebuttal to the LaRouche group’s ballot statement, and a spokesman said the LaRouche argument contains several factual errors.
In contrast to the positions of the vast majority of AIDS experts, the LaRouche group’s ballot argument states that “potential insect and respiratory transmission” of the AIDS virus and transmission of the disease by “casual contact” are “well established.”
Virtually all public health experts agree that the AIDS virus is primarily transmitted by intimate sexual contact, by exposure to contaminated blood and from mothers to their newborn babies. The overwhelming consensus is also that the virus has not been shown to be transmitted by insects, through the air or by casual contact.
“That’s as close to a blatant lie as you can possibly get,” said Mark Madsen, a public health expert with the California Medical Assn., about the threat of casual contact.
The LaRouche organization’s ballot arguments are signed by Khushro Ghandhi, the group’s Los Angeles head, and by three people who claim medical expertise: Dr. John Grauerholz, a Virginia physician, who has written treatises on AIDS for LaRouche publications; Dr. Nancy T. Mullan, a Burbank physician, and Gus S. Sermos, who lives in Mississippi and is listed on the ballot statement as a former public health adviser in Florida for the federal Centers for Disease Control.
Neither Ghandhi nor any of those listed as medical experts could be reached for comment Tuesday.
Also Tuesday, state Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp released a report concluding that Proposition 64 may have no financial impact if the law does not require any new enforcement activities by state and local health authorities.
Could Involve Costs
However, the report said that should courts conclude that widespread testing for AIDS antibodies is needed, the cost to taxpayers “could range to hundreds of millions of dollars per year.”
Opponents of the measure had sought to persuade Van de Kamp’s staff to conclude that the initiative would require quarantine and other drastic measures against AIDS victims. However, the report Tuesday concluded that Proposition 64 probably does not require health officials to act any differently toward AIDS victims than they do now.
The sponsors of the initiative are followers of political extremist Lyndon LaRouche.