QUESTION: What's the truth about AIDS and women? I have heard conflicting statements, and wonder what is true and what is hype? I suspect that militant gay rights people are inflating this issue. Please lay it on the line. - K.G.

ANSWER: During the reporting period November 1989 to October 1990, females accounted for 11 percent of all adult AIDS cases. That's a fact, and the figure represents a 30 percent increase in female cases over the previous year. No matter what your point of view, that is not hype.Most of these women got AIDS by use of contaminated needles or from sex with infected partners. AIDS is no respecter of gender, a fact that adds to our deepening fears about this terrible epidemic.

QUESTION: I have had post-shingles pain for three years. I am surprised at the answers you keep giving out on this. You should tell people to see a neurologist. My doctor did, and she has controlled the lightning pains with Tegretol and is trying other medicines as well. I use Zostrix cream, too. Alone, it does not do the job, but along with other medicines it really helps the pain. It's just a matter of finding the right combination for the individual. - Mrs. R.A.C.

ANSWER: In listing various medicines from time to time, I did not mean to imply that they could not be used in combination. Your Zostrix cream (capsaicin) is one of the newer treatments. Nerve blocks and electrical stimulation devices are among non-drug treatments. I agree that a visit to a neurologist can be a big step forward in treatment of this terrible post-shingles pain. Your point is well-made.

QUESTION: I have genital papilloma virus. I have never had sexual relations with anyone but my husband. Are there non-sexual ways to get this? My husband doesn't have it, so he could not have passed it on to me. By the way, I have no genital warts. It was diagnosed by Pap smear and biopsy. I had laser surgery on my cervix to remove it. Can this come back? Do condoms offer protection? - Mrs. S.

ANSWER: This is a big and important subject these days. We know of at least 40 papilloma viruses, some of which cause common warts, like those found on hands or feet. Others cause warts on the genital tract. The genital viruses concern us most since they have been implicated in cancer development.

This handful of dangerous papilloma viruses produces warty genital growths, often visible on both men and women, but sometimes invisible to an unaided eye. Detection requires application of dilute acetic acid to the genital lining. Infected tissue turns white.

Genital papilloma viruses most often are transmitted sexually. If one partner has the infection, the chance that the other has it is as high as 85 percent.

Can infection spread non-sexually? Indeed it can - for example from shared towels or sun-tanning couches. Innocent people have been accused of child abuse based on the mistaken notion that presence of a genital papilloma virus is prima facie evidence of sexual intimacy.

Condom use is wise until doubts about infection are settled. Your husband may still need the kind of testing I mentioned above.

1991 North America Syndicate Inc.