Letters to the Magazine
Still Seeking a Cure, 25 Years Later
Readers expressed hope for a cure for AIDS amid their sorrow over the high toll the pandemic continues to exact. One said, "Your comprehensive essays [were] tough reading. Tough to learn how far-reaching and devastating this disease has become in 25 years." A lawyer who once defended AIDS victims and is trying to do more to "play my part in prevention, testing and treatment" wrote, "That sense of doom may be lifting if the Clintons and Gateses of this world can lead us to more solutions." And a longtime AIDS sufferer noted, "Although I may not make it, I do know those in the future will be able to overcome this horrible disease and live a normal life." One black woman's sense of urgency echoed those of other readers. "The disease affects so many of us," she said. "I hope the black community can come together to spread awareness and create change like it did when we were fighting for our lives and rights in the 20th century."
A New Look at AIDS
Your May 15 issue, "AIDS at 25," is one of NEWSWEEK's most important. I grew up in a rural part of Virginia, where HIV/AIDS was, and often still is, viewed as a distant phenomenon that affects those living in the city or across the ocean. My family was like many others, never once thinking that HIV/AIDS could have anything to do with us. My older brother Kevin died of AIDS-related pneumonia when I was 10 years old. I relate this anecdote now in my work as a health educator for Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry, where I manage a program called Face to Face. My program enters local schools, church youth groups, juvenile-detention centers--any place where youth congregate--to teach a message of HIV prevention through education. We put a face to this disease by having those living with HIV or AIDS tell their stories. This enables young people to see that any person from any walk of life could be infected. Many parents take their children out of our program, meaning our educational message of safety and the statistics will not reach their ears. All I can hope is that their parents are educating them at home on these important issues. I believe that, perhaps, if someone had come to speak to my family about HIV, my brother Kevin would still be with us today.
Tara Dwyer Falls Church, Va.
As the developer of the nation's first home HIV test--1996 on your timeline ("How AIDS Changed America")--I have been a longtime advocate of HIV testing as a way to reduce the spread of AIDS. The only way you know whether you or your partner has HIV is by taking a test. Yet this logical approach to AIDS prevention has been all but ignored for two decades as politics have skewed AIDS-prevention programs to a choice of abstinence or the "Don't ask, don't tell" approach of condoms. It is encouraging that former president Clinton is beginning to provide leadership on this issue and advocate for broad-scale HIV testing. I no longer have any financial interest in AIDS testing, but with 40,000 new cases of AIDS each year in the United States, the time is long overdue for public-health officials to do more than give lip service to the benefits of testing.
Elliott J. Millenson Former President and CEO Johnson & Johnson, Direct Access Diagnostics Potomac, Md.
The sheer number of people affected by AIDS makes this worldwide disease a worthy topic for an issue of NEWSWEEK. I would have liked to see in your extensive coverage an article about sexual abstinence as a prevention method. Regrettably, we do not want to discuss the possibility of teaching our young people to exercise self-control and to abstain from sexual activity until marriage. Yet if they do and they marry someone who has also abstained and they remain sexually faithful in marriage, their chance of contracting AIDS is 0 percent, and there is not even a need for a condom! Abstinence is smart, totally effective and cost-efficient, but it requires that we challenge people to be self-controlled. …