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Public Reaction Mixed to Prenuptial AIDS Test : Some Couples at Courthouse Strongly Approve of Proposal; Others Fear That Privacy Will Be Lost

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Times Staff Writer

Getting married? Had your AIDS test yet?

This combination is now a distinct possibility as federal officials revealed this week they may soon recommend that all couples applying for marriage licenses be tested for AIDS, along with all patients routinely admitted to hospitals.

To become law in California, the proposal would first have to go through the usually lengthy process of being adopted by the Legislature. But couples applying for marriage licenses on Tuesday at the L.A. County Courthouse didn’t waste any time voicing opinions on whether they think required prenuptial AIDS testing would be a beneficial or detrimental move.

‘Invasion of My Privacy’

“I feel it would be an invasion of my privacy,” said Beverly Hills attorney Behrouz Shafie, 42, an Iranian-American who’s planning a Valentine’s Day wedding. “If you had AIDS and it was a matter of public record, you could have a hell of a time getting a job or doing anything else. The danger of having one’s constitutional rights violated is worse than the danger of giving AIDS to somebody else.”

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Shafie’s fiancee, however, does not agree. “I’d prefer to have the test. I think they should do something about the spread of AIDS. It’s horrible,” said 28-year-old Ziba Sabeti, a native of Iran.

“She’s in America. I can’t tell her anything,” Shafie joked as his fiancee laughed.

On a more serious note, Shafie recommended that instead of requiring AIDS tests, the United States put money into AIDS research instead of sending arms to Iran.

Los Angeles residents Zaneta Bodden, a native of Belize, and her fiance, Adolfo Hilton were not particularly thrilled by the possibility of required AIDS tests for couples. But neither were these two particularly disturbed by such a possibility.

Blood Test Exemptions

They were interviewed just minutes before their wedding ceremony at the courthouse and didn’t seem worried--about anything. “At least, it lets you know if you have it (AIDS) or not,” Hilton noted, adding that because he and his fiancee had been living together they were not required to take even a blood test. (The exemption for blood tests for venereal disease and rubella immunity is permitted by state law for couples who declare they have been living together.) However, because he is an Army staff sergeant, Hilton said, he will be taking a required AIDS test in the near future.

Armando Ortiz of Los Angeles, who had come to the courthouse with his fiancee and their 15-month-old son, indicated he feared the government might restrict the rights of individuals who test positive for AIDS.

“It’s breaking your own privacy isn’t it? They shouldn’t do that,” said Ortiz, who will be married on Feb. 28. “What’s going to happen to people who already have children? (If they have AIDS) they might not give them a license to get married.”

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Sixteen-year-old Christine Morena, who will marry her former next-door neighbor, 20-year-old Joel Rico in April, likes the idea of AIDS testing.

“I wouldn’t mind it at all,” the South El Monte resident said. “I don’t have anything to hide. I think you should have to take the test for the safety of everyone. I also think they should have tests for the sake of children from the marriage, so they are not born with AIDS.”

But not everyone visiting the marriage bureau of the courthouse was settled in his or her opinions on AIDS testing. Mike Ginocchio, 34, of Inglewood, who was married last weekend and was at the courthouse inquiring about what he needed to do to get an annulment, didn’t want to make anymore possibly premature decisions.

“I’m for it and I’m against it,” he said. “I don’t know if the testing thing is all that great anyway. From what I understand, everybody who’s tested and has the virus, doesn’t necessarily have the disease.”

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