AIDS WATCH : Mister Goodcard?

AIDS awareness is on the upswing, and that of course is good. But it's one thing to be aware and educated about the deadly disease, and quite another to be misinformed. Unfortunately, at least one entrepreneurial effort, called, ironically, Partners for an AIDS-Free America, is contributing to misunderstanding about AIDS.

The St. Louis-based company is offering, for about $30, verification that an applicant has received a negative test for the AIDS virus. The applicant receives a card with his or her photograph and the date of the test.

That's fine, as far as it goes, which isn't very far. The problem, as health educators point out, is that it can be many months before an infected person tests positive for the AIDS virus. Thus, the card proves only that a person tested negative on the date on the card. It certainly does not prove that the person is uninfected.

Naturally there's a lot of deep anxiety about this currently incurable disease that has killed so many thousands. There has been more than one attempt to sell similar cards in the name of promoting AIDS education. The head of Partners for an AIDS-Free America has been quoted as saying he wants to teach about the risk of AIDS and enable people to prove they are free of the virus.

More people should get tested for the virus. But more important, everyone must understand that one negative test is no assurance that there is no infection. Unfortunately, medical science has developed no product--and no identification card--that can give that assurance.

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