The new AIDS brochure published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for distribution to 107 million American households may help clear up misconceptions about the disease, but a local health official says the $17 million the government spent to produce it could have been used more wisely to fight the fatal disease.
Some Utahns also think the government should trash the eight-page pamphlet and let parents teach their children about sex and sexually transmittable diseases."We could stop the AIDS epidemic if Americans would stop perverted sexual sodomy acts," said Joy Beech of Families Alert.
But many local medical and public health organizations and AIDS victims are applauding the government's massive effort to educate the public about the nationwide epidemic that continues to strike Utahns.
As of April 29, there have been 124 cases of AIDS diagnosed in Utah, with 80 deaths. Homosexual men and intravenous drug users account for the majority of cases.
Dr. Harry Gibbons, executive director of the Salt Lake City-County Health Department, said the money spent on the pamphlet should have gone to local health departments that are targeting their AIDS programs to such high-risk groups.
Congress mandated mailing the brochure, "Understanding AIDS," to every American household. The brochure, which presents the essential facts about AIDS in direct, easy-to-understand language, should be in the hands of Utahns by the first of July.
It's the first time the federal government has attempted to contact virtually every resident, directly by mail, regarding a public health crisis.
Gibbons said he hopes it's worth the effort - that residents will indeed read the brochure.
"There is still a great deal of misinformation about AIDS. I would hope this would counter the garbage distributed by Masters and Johnson, who did the public a great disservice," he said.
In March sexuality experts Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson reported that heterosexual transmission of AIDS is far more common than the federal government is willing to admit; that, in fact, the virus can indeed be transmitted by touching the wrong person, sitting on the wrong toilet seat or ordering the wrong food in the wrong restaurant.
Gibbons hopes the brochure will clear up such "gross misinformation."
"I hope people will read it. If parents will read the brochure as a good bedtime story to their children, it will diminish AIDS hysteria," Gibbons said. "But if they don't read it, a lot of trees have turned into paper for no useful purpose."
Referring to language in the brochure about transmission of AIDS, HHS Secretary Otis R. Bowen said that to achieve its purpose, "this brochure cannot mince words - and it doesn't."
That isn't good news to Utahns who don't want the pamphlet.
"Utahns should be very, very careful about what they let in their homes," said Beech. Her organization, Families Alert, is dedicated to promoting traditional family values.
"We are concerned because in the past he has wanted to promote contraceptives to stop teen pregnancies," said Beech, who's also a member of Concerned Women of America. "We know any time we promote sex education and the giving away of contraceptives, teen pregnancy has increased, as have sexually transmitted diseases.