"The media are not your enemies. There is no reason for you to be afraid of them, and certainly no reason for them to be afraid of you," an executive of the American Medical Association on Saturday told leaders of state, county and specialty medical societies from seven Western states.
The 90 leaders gathered this past week in the St. George Holiday Inn for the first annual Rocky Mountain Conference Meeting, sponsored by the Utah Medical Association."I have found (those in) the media to be extremely responsible people, and they deserve to be treated as professionals," said Dr. James Sammons, AMA executive vice president.
Sammons fielded a series of questions from members of Utah's press corps on such medical issues as skyrocketing medical liability insurance, inequities in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, the nation's nursing shortage and the AIDS epidemic.
"States have to recognize that this (AIDS) is not some passing fancy, a fad in the night they are dealing with," he said. "The state that jumps up and enacts a lot of legislation that mandates testing of this and that better be very careful that they have built in the confidentiality requirements to protect that individual and that individual's family."
Although physicians in the 1950s and '60s mandated tests for venereal diseases, Sammons said mandatory testing for AIDS isn't practical because of the exorbitant cost of each test, the accuracy of the test at the test site and "this confidentiality business."
The AMA executive said he doesn't support routine testing for AIDS of those admitted to hospitals, but he said the argument may be different for surgery and obstetric patients. But if physicians want a patient tested, they should do it before the patient is admitted and then must "maintain that confidentiality in the doctor's office rather than in the hospital records room, where everyone has access."
In a Saturday session, Sammons said he abhors the promptings of some people who say AIDS patients should be put in isolation on some island, or that prostitutes with the disease should be quarantined.
"There are 600,000 prostitutes in this country under the age 15 who are female. There are 300,000 under the age of 15 who are male." he said. "If you can tell me how anybody can address that issue, I'll jump on the bandwagon so fast I might even knock you off.
"Prostitutes haven't been under control since before the time of Christ," Sammons said. "They don't call it the oldest profession for nothing."
The executive said no one has yet been able to control prostitution, and isolating them won't prevent the further spread of AIDS.