Kilpatrick's 'Bigotry and Ignorance'Editor: James J...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 09, 1991

Kilpatrick's 'Bigotry and Ignorance'

Editor: James J. Kilpatrick's July 29 column, ''Scared Silly,'' reeks of bigotry and ignorance. He blames activists for the AIDS hysteria in the Senate and people with AIDS for their own illness.

I find it difficult to believe that it was the activists and not the media, the publicity-seeking attorney for the infected patients and the rantings of Sen. Jesse Helms that fueled the hysteria. Apparently, Senator Helms believes he is more qualified to determine policy regarding AIDS than the epidemiologists and scientists of the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health.

Kilpatrick refers to ''zealots shouting down'' Health Secretary Louis Sullivan at an AIDS conference in San Francisco. He neglects to reveal that the scientific community agreed with the activists over the issue being protested -- American immigration law regarding HIV+ individuals.

Next year's conference at Harvard University will be canceled by the International AIDS Society if this law is not changed. This will be a tremendous loss to the research community and those who may benefit from the exchange of information and ideas.

Sullivan himself recently sought to change this law, citing the fact that it was enacted to prevent the spread of highly contagious diseases which can be contracted through casual contact (e.g., tuberculosis), not a disease like AIDS which can only be transmitted through blood and semen. The health secretary's enlightened stance, however, was overridden by the fear of political backlash by the Justice Department.

Kilpatrick goes on to degrade the activists and belittle their cause: ''You would think that AIDS was the leading killer of all time.''

For many groups of human beings, this may actually be the case.

The new infection rate among American adolescents has increased dramatically. Whole villages in Africa have been wiped out. In countries like the Soviet Union and Romania, where there is little education regarding sexual behavior, condoms are widely unavailable and sterilization techniques are often not used in hospitals, AIDS is a virtual time-bomb.

It has been primarily gay men who have been dealing with this epidemic since 1981. Ten years later, because of five infections of ''innocent'' people, for the first time AIDS is seen as a ''real'' threat to the mainstream.

For Kilpatrick to justify AIDS deaths by saying ''eventually all of us will die of something anyhow'' is pure stupidity. If he had the choice between dying of a humiliating, debilitating disease in the prime of his life or to live to old-age, enjoying the gift of life to its fullest, I would suspect he would choose the latter.

Richard J. Heid.

Morrisville, Pa.

AIDS Reporting

Editor: I was impressed by your editorial July 23, in which you expressed grave concern about public hysteria over the transmission of AIDS by health workers.

While I certainly agree that the Helms bill mandating criminal penalties for health workers failing to report positive HIV test results represents an inappropriate response to concern about AIDS transmission, I am surprised that you do not appear to see a connection between the public hysteria you decry and your reporting on AIDS cases among health workers locally.

The sensational headlines, inflammatory writing and aggressive ''marketing'' of your stories belie your apparent concerns about public hysteria leading to inappropriate action.

You are correct that the House of Representatives should take a leadership role in combating the hysteria concerning AIDS transmission by health workers and developing effective strategies for facing the AIDS pandemic. The Sun should set no lower a standard for itself. In addition to selling newspapers you do owe your readers responsible reporting rather than pandering to and encouraging public hysteria.

$ Laurence D. Fechter.

Baltimore.

Black and White

Editor: I am writing to comment on The Sun's recent front-page article, ''Girls forfeit softball game when faced by coed team.''

Even if the gender requirements for participation in the Baltimore County Girls Softball Tournament were somehow misleading or ambiguous, the larger question is how allegations of racism found their way into a dispute over player eligibility.

Racism is ugly and for those who have been victimized by hatred and bigotry, the pain is real. By charging that the all-girls team's actions were racially motivated, the coaches of the coed black team, Turners Station, do a disservice to those who have truly suffered from the effects of racism. Baseless assertions only minimize the seriousness of the accusation of racial discrimination while exacerbating racial tensions.

The test of any enlightened society is whether it can debate issues without resorting to name-calling. This goal can be achieved, but only if we stop invoking race differences where they aren't relevant. After all, not everything is black and white.

Ezra Olman.

Baltimore.

Two Towsons?

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