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Jewish World Review /Dec. 31, 1998 /12 Teves, 5759

Dr. Laura

Dr. Laura Tracking HIV-infected people makes good sense

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) IT TOOK TWO YEARS AND A FEDERAL COURT BATTLE for a 42-year-old California man to get State Department of Motor Vehicles approval for his motorcycle license plate: "HIV POS." The state worried that this "message" could be considered offensive. The man, who has AIDS, ran a support group for heterosexuals called Positive Support. His intention was to spread acceptance of straight people who have the virus.

"I'm not saying it's a good thing, but it has to be acceptable, like cancer, and I didn't feel it was," he was quoted in a recent AP report.

Two glaring issues explode into our consciousness: his public breaching of the usual activist mantra about "secrecy," and the notion of "acceptance" or non-stigmatization of a disease.

For years, due to the power of the gay lobby, HIV has been the exceptional infectious disease -- unlike syphilis, for example -- with medical staffs forbidden to demand mandatory testing, tracing of sexual partners and recording and reporting of cases. However, times, they are a'changing. There are now at least 26 states that have laws requiring the reporting of HIV infections using patients' names or unique identifier codes.

While some activists decry the reporting, fearing breaches of privacy and discrimination, epidemiologists believe that this tracking will assist in research, treatment and prevention, as it has for so many other infectious diseases.

I don't believe for a minute that the pro-reporting lobby is about lining up people for discrimination; it is about a necessary effort to get more information and control over a deadly disease. The truth that most folks tiptoe around is the obvious and ongoing argument on morality.

In this same AP report out of San Francisco, a homosexual man was profiled for his opinion on medical reporting. His experience with the medical system began when he had an anonymous quickie with another guy beside the Seine in Paris. When he went back to his hotel, he realized that the man's used condom was still in him. Fearful, he went for testing twice. A counselor started lecturing him about his behavior, and he "felt he was being attacked because of his sexuality."

Bull! He was being nagged because of his irresponsible, immoral, high-risk behavior, through which he was volunteering for a deadly disease. This is a simple truth in the same way that fat, physically lazy smokers are lectured by their physicians about their irresponsible, high-risk, stupid behaviors, through which they are volunteering for an early death.

When the "HIV-POS" fellow wants there to be the same acceptance of AIDS as there is for prostate cancer, he's got to be kidding. Generally, AIDS is transmitted through promiscuous sex (both homosexual anal intercourse and heterosexual intercourse) and use of infected needles injecting illegal substances. Both of those behaviors are considered immoral and irresponsible to the bulk of civilized society.

To be stricken with prostate cancer one only has to have a prostate and bad luck. It is true that sympathy is lessened, for example, in the case of an individual dying of lung cancer when he or she has spent an entire life sucking down cigarette smoke. Most reasonable individuals feel that the smoker made a choice to risk death -- and lost.

Of course, the unsuspecting women who are infected due to the secretive bisexual behavior of their spouses, and the children infected as a result -- as well as from their mothers' drug abuse -- are indeed responded to with greater compassion because of their obvious victimhood.

To be tolerant of behavior that kills is ridiculous. To not be able to keep track of the course of a communicable disease for assessment and treatment because of potential hurt feelings is stupid. To not be able to warn past, present and imminent sexual partners of what is likely being kept a secret is irresponsible and cruel.


12/24/98: How can we teach ethics without defining morals?
12/18/98: Parents afraid of firm values leave their children adrift
12/11/98: Spread righteousness by refusing to accept the 'code'

©1998,Universal Press Syndicate