Utah's Postal Service employees began playing a key role Wednesday in the nation's most massive health education campaign - delivering brochures containing information designed to help stem the spread of AIDS.
The new eight-page pamphlet, which cost the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services $17 million to produce, is being delivered to 107 million American households, including those in Utah.About half of the area's expected 917,000 brochures, titled "Understanding AIDS," arrived Tuesday at Salt Lake City's Main Post Office, 1760 W. 21st South. They are being trucked to post offices in southern Utah, eastern Nevada, southern Idaho and southeastern Oregon for delivery to all households in those areas.
Another truckload, destined for mailboxes in northern Utah, including Salt Lake City, was to arrive at the post office Wednesday.
The brochure must be delivered to customers before June 15, but local postal officials say the blue and white, 81/2-by-111/2-inch pamphlet will be in area mailboxes within just a few days after they reach the delivery post office. All Utahns should have a copy no later than Monday.
Local health officials are encouraging each resident to read it carefully.
"We do recommend that everyone read the brochure. That may sound obvious, but people may perceive the brochure as junk mail and others may think its message doesn't concern them," said Dr. Suzanne Dandoy, Utah Health Department executive director. "But we cannot afford to take anything having to do with AIDS lightly.
"The brochure should be read and discussed," she said. "We should talk about it with our friends, our loved ones - our spouses and our children. Home has always been the best place to discuss the facts about sex, and since AIDS is primarily a sexually transmittable disease, home is also the best place to talk about AIDS."
Members of Families Alert, a conservative group promoting family unity, also agree that home is the best place to discuss sex, and they strongly believe the federal government should stay out of Utah houses. They oppose the brochure.
As of May 1988, AIDS had been diagnosed in 61,596 Americans, of whom 34,526 have died. During that same period, Utah has had 127 cases of AIDS with 81 deaths. Homosexual men and intravenous drug users account for the majority of cases. No one is known to have recovered from AIDS.
The pamphlets were sent to Salt Lake City by rail from Houston, where the printing contractor - Gulf Printing Co. - has been loading 160 tractor trailers packed with the brochures for transportation to distribution centers.
The mailing is part of an educational effort mandated by Congress last year. It's the first time the federal government has attempted to contact virtually every resident directly by mail regarding a public health crisis.
Health and Human Services Secretary Otis R. Bowen said the brochure is a straight-talking attempt to educate Americans about the deadly disease, including the role condoms play in preventing its spread.
"The brochure lays out the facts of what everyone needs to know," he said. "It's written in plain, easy, straight-forward language that is at about the 12- to 13-year-old reading level.
"It doesn't mince words, yet it is in good taste. It stresses proper behavior and it stresses values and responsibilities."
Bowen said the material was prepared under the guidance of a variety of federal officials, including Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.
In support of the educational effort, post offices will display a poster about the mailing until July 1.
The Utah Health Department has established an information hotline at 1-800-537-1046 for people who have questions about the disease or brochure. Local health departments will also be offering assistance by answering questions about testing.
Salt Lake AIDS Foundation volunteers are also staffing phones to respond to questions Utahns may have about the brochure. Their hotline number is 531-8238.