I'd like to change your editorial ("Fighting AIDS: No on 102," Oct. 20) by only one word. Make it "Fighting AIDS: Yes on 102," for the following reasons:
You claim that the present method of anonymous testing for the AIDS virus has been so successful that there is no need for confidential reporting to public health officials. Has anonymous testing truly been that effective over the past four years?
Experience in anonymous clinics from California to New York City has demonstrated that 16% to 20% of those patients who test positive in an anonymous clinic disappointingly never even return to find out their results. Thus they continue their sexual behavior without even the inhibition of knowing that they are infecting others.
We have tested 20,000 Californians positive for the AIDS virus, but the Centers for Disease Control officials estimate that there are 200,000 Californians with the infection. That leaves 180,000 sexually active Californians who unknowingly are continuing to infect their partners. Here we are four years into the epidemic and we still don't now who has the disease nor how fast it is spreading. By any measure this is not a successful approach.
In addition a critical question remains. What does the AIDS-positive patient do once he has been anonymously notified? It is asking much from this newly devastated patient that he proceed blithely to alert all of his recent sexual partners. He would more likely choose silence rather than bare his affliction to his intimates. He would also have to summon the moral courage and integrity to warn all future sexual contacts about his condition. By using public health under Proposition 102 he would at least secure professional assistance in giving the critical warnings to his past partners.
JOHN F. BRIDGEMAN, M.D.