• U.S.

Medicine: A Most Explicit Report

4 minute read

In the foreword to his report on AIDS, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop has some blunt words of advice for Americans: “If you are participating in activities that could expose you to the AIDS virus, this report could save your life.” The Surgeon General is not exaggerating, as the 36-page booklet confirms in most explicit terms. Some pertinent excerpts:

— There is now no doubt that we need sex education in schools and that it include information on heterosexual and homosexual relationships. The threat of AIDS should be sufficient to permit a sex education curriculum with a heavy emphasis on prevention of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

— Although the AIDS virus is found in several body fluids, a person acquires the virus during sexual contact with an infected person’s blood or semen and possibly vaginal secretions . . . Small (unseen by the naked eye) tears in the surface lining of the vagina or rectum may occur during insertion of the penis, fingers or other objects, thus opening an avenue for entrance of the virus directly into the blood stream; therefore, the AIDS virus can be passed from penis to rectum and vagina and vice versa without a visible tear in the tissue or the presence of blood.

— Although the initial discovery was in the homosexual community . . . AIDS is found in heterosexual people as well. AIDS is not a black or white disease. AIDS is not just a male disease. AIDS is found in women; it is found in children. In the future AIDS will probably increase and spread among people who are not homosexual or intravenous drug abusers.

— Unless it is possible to know with absolute certainty that neither you nor your sexual partner is carrying the virus of AIDS, you must use protective behavior. Absolute certainty means not only that you and your partner have (had) a mutually faithful monogamous sexual relationship (for at least five years), but . . . that neither you nor your partner has used illegal intravenous drugs.

— If you suspect that (your partner) has been exposed by previous heterosexual or homosexual behavior or use of intravenous drugs with shared needles and syringes, a rubber (condom) should always be used during (start to finish) sexual intercourse (vagina or rectum).

— Do not have sex with prostitutes. Infected male and female prostitutes are frequently also intravenous drug abusers; therefore, they may infect clients by sexual intercourse and other intravenous drug abusers by sharing their intravenous drug equipment. Female prostitutes also can infect their unborn babies.

— The risk of infection increases according to the number of sexual partners one has, male or female. The more partners you have, the greater the risk of becoming infected with the AIDS virus.

— No one should shoot up drugs . . . However, many drug users are addicted to drugs and for one reason or another have not changed their behavior. For these people, the only way not to get AIDS is to use a clean, previously unused needle, syringe or any other implement (for injection).

— Almost all babies with AIDS have been born to women who were intravenous drug users or the sexual partners of intravenous drug users who were infected with the AIDS virus. More such babies can be expected.

— You cannot get AIDS by donating blood.

— Every blood donation is now tested for the presence of antibodies to the AIDS virus. Blood that shows exposure to the AIDS virus by the presence of antibodies is not used. (But) because antibodies do not form immediately after exposure to the virus, a newly infected person may unknowingly donate blood after becoming infected but before his/her antibody test becomes positive. It is estimated that this might occur less than once in 100,000 transfusions.

— Shaking hands, hugging, social kissing, crying, coughing or sneezing will not transmit the AIDS virus. Nor has AIDS been contracted from swimming in pools or hot tubs or from eating in restaurants (even if a restaurant worker has AIDS or carries the AIDS virus). AIDS is not contracted from sharing bed linens, towels, cups, straws, dishes, or any other eating utensils. You cannot get AIDS from toilets, doorknobs, telephones, office machinery, or household furniture. You cannot get AIDS from body massages, masturbation or any non- sexual body contact.

— None of the identified cases of AIDS in the United States are known or are suspected to have been transmitted from one child to another in school, day care, or foster care settings.

— Quarantine has no role in the management of AIDS because AIDS is not spread by casual contact. The only time that some form of quarantine might be indicated is in a situation where an individual carrying the AIDS virus knowingly and willingly continues to expose others through sexual contact or sharing drug equipment.

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