In the rush to deal with deadly AIDS, health departments in big cities have switched money and people from other programs. As a result, other sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis are increasing at alarming rates.

Los Angeles and New York City both report what have been called "despairingly high" rates of increase in venereal disease. In some cases, the figures have doubled.Statisticians for the national Centers for Disease Control say their preliminary figures also show such growing numbers of VD, clustering particularly in the major cities.

Utah has largely escaped this VD explosion, although there have been small increases in some types. One of the reasons for the state's success is that Utah did not raid its health ranks in the fight against AIDS but kept the two programs separate.

In the major cities, where AIDS admittedly is a bigger problem in the sheer numbers of cases, many of the trained personnel public health nurses, field case workers, and public health investigators were taken from VD programs and thrown into the battle against AIDS.

Without these people, and with VD programs also suffering from lack of money, the dramatic rise in cases was perhaps inevitable.

Health professionals, the public, and political leaders must be careful that they don't panic over AIDS. While the extent and seriousness of AIDS is not to be minimized, the country can't afford to abandon all other health programs for the sake of that one disease.

While VD is not usually fatal, as is the case with AIDS, there still can be tragic consequences if syphilis and gonorrhea are ignored and allowed to spread.