Magazine article Science News

AIDS: Education, Testing Continued

Magazine article Science News

AIDS: Education, Testing Continued

Article excerpt

AIDS: Education, testing continued

With October officially designated AIDS Awareness and Prevention Month, the federal government has launched its massive education campaign called "America Responds to AIDS.' The goal is to "blanket the nation with accurate AIDS information,' according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last week. While the education effort presses on, so do AIDS research and politics.

Despite the justifiable fear of AIDS, the overall prevalence of infection in the general population remains low. This, say scientists at Harvard University, makes the controversial concept of mandatory premarital screening for the AIDS virus "a relatively ineffective and inefficient use of resources.' Reporting in the Oct. 2 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, the researchers estimate the number of people who would have to be tested under such a program, as well as the number of infections that might be prevented.

They conclude that if mandatory premarital screening were in place with currently available tests--which can yield both false positives and false negatives--the program would detect fewer than 0.1 percent of infected individuals and cost "substantially more' than $100 million annually. They also say that mandatory premarital screening for syphilis--begun in the mid-1930s and cited to by those supporting an AIDS program-- has been "judged to be ineffective and unnecessary.' Voluntary testing, education and counseling are the best ways to stop AIDS in low-prevalence populations, say the scientists. …

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