Faced with an AIDS infection rate six times that of the rest of the nation, District of Columbia Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly has sliced through the knotty issues surrounding teen-aged sexuality to make a basic point: protecting citizens' health is the highest priority. Her decision to distribute condoms and counseling through nurses in the public schools and through health clinics in Washington's prisons is a sensible one, given a recent Centers for Disease Control study that showed:
* 3,500 AIDS infections in 1991, a figure expected to reach 10,000 by mid-decade;
* More than 75 percent of D.C. teen-agers are estimated to be sexually active by the time they reach the 10th grade;
* Two-thirds of the boys have had at least four partners by then;
* In D.C. prisons, 16 percent of the inmates are already infected;
* Washington has 16,000 intravenous drug addicts, an estimated one-fourth HIV infected.
That impelled Mayor Kelly also to call for a clean-needle exchange to help control the spread of AIDS among drug abusers and their sexual partners, many of whom do not use drugs. Such moves make many people uncomfortable. Washington's Cardinal James Hickey has denounced the school condom plan. So has City Councilman John Ray, saying parents should decide if a school gives out condoms and that prison rules forbid inmate sex.