Behavior Modification Only Answer to Aids Epidemic

Article excerpt

The fear of AIDS - Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome - still haunts the land. And, last week, as the scientific experts gathered in San Francisco to exchange information, neither a cure nor a preventive vaccine was in sight.

So, what does an alarmed populace do about it?

Sensibly, the Oklahoma State Department of Health argues for a reduction in risk taking.

Since January, department spokesman Dick Gunn reports, 203 Oklahomans have tested positive for HIV infection, the viral precursor of the disease itself. It may lurk in the body for five or as many as 10 years before the affected individual becomes an AIDS victim, requiring very expensive and generally unproven medications.

Gunn said 14 new cases were reported to the department in May, bringing the year's total to 83, an increase of 21 over the same period last year. Oklahoma's total, since reporting began in January 1983, now stands at 617.

Among the more hopful revelations at the international AIDS conference in San Francisco was a Scandinavian claim that the drug isoprinosine appears to delay onset of the disease. American researchers, however, were skeptical.

The Scandinavians, led by Dr. Court Pederson of Copenhagen, say a random study of 856 patients revealed that those who received the drug were less likely to develop AIDS symptoms within 24 weeks. They were measured against patients who received a placebo - a dummy substance.

Three officials of the federal Food and Drug Administration, Drs. Sandra Dweder, Robert Schnur and Ellen C. Cooper, said the conclusions ought to be viewed with "considerable caution."

They noted that the study found no changes in other markers of AIDS virus infections. There were, for example, no increases in the number of immune system cells, or decreases in viral proteins often seen in the blood of infected people.

Several other American researchers said they agreed with the Food and Drug Administration's observations.

During the 24 weeks of the Scandinavian trials, two patients who took the active drug came down with AIDS. …