- WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- AIDS groups that have previously opposed widespread
HIV testing reversed their stand Monday, saying wider testing is one of
the best ways to help stem the epidemic.
- They also said the government and groups
like theirs need to step up prevention programs that educate people who
have become complacent about the risks.
- "When the antibody test for HIV
first became available in 1985, AIDS organizations like Gay Men's Health
Crisis and many others were reluctant, even afraid, to encourage people
to take this not-so-simple blood test," Ronald Johnson of the group
told a news conference.
- "Fear that the results would be
used improperly and the lack of any treatment meant that we just didn't
see the value of HIV testing," he said.
- But Johnson and representatives of several
other groups noted there were now safeguards for anonymity.
- "Now, today in 1998, there has never
been a better time to get tested for HIV," Johnson said. "People
who are infected with HIV wait too long to find out they are infected."
- As AIDS symptoms take years to develop,
HIV-positive people can infect many others before knowing they are sick
- Another group, AIDS Action, released
a 10-point plan it said could help prevent the 40,000 new cases of HIV
infection reported every year in the United States.
- A quick AIDS test that does not take
days to get a result is a cornerstones of the plan.
- "The reality is that the current
generation of AIDS drugs don't work for everyone and are a cure for no
one," Daniel Zingale, executive director of the group, told the news
- "For many young people who were
too young to witness the devastation AIDS wrought in the first 15 years
of the epidemic, condoms and safe sex are simply a 'retro-80s thing' book-ended
between (former surgeon-general) C. Everett Koop (who fought smoking) and
Nancy Reagan's wagging finger."
- Referring to the former first lady's
anti-drugs slogan, he added: "And 'Just say no' doesn't work -- people
need to know what they can do, not only what they can't."
- Minority groups such as blacks, who are
disproportionately affected by HIV, should get special targeting, he added.
- Zingale said Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) funding for AIDS research should be increased by 25
percent, treatment should be more readily available and television companies
should feel free to advertise condoms and other ways to prevent HIV transmission,
and talk about them on programs.
- The group called for the setting-up of
a "heavily publicized" Internet Web site where young people could
learn about HIV and talk about their sexual behavior. And they repeated
calls for the quick development of a vaccine.
- Helene Gayle of the CDC said people were
forgetting the safe-sex messages that worked until recently.
- "Contrary to what AIDS cases alone
show us, HIV cases show there is an ever-increasing toll among the young,
minorities and women," Gayle said.
- She said 55 percent of all cases were
among people under 34. Fifty-seven percent of all HIV cases are in blacks.
- She said it costs more than $150,000
to treat a person for HIV infection. "At the current rate of annual
infections in the United States (at least 40,000), the nation now adds
$6.2 billion in future health care costs alone for HIV every year,"