Blood samples drawn from clients of health departments in Weber, Morgan and Salt Lake counties will be tested for the AIDS virus as part of a Centers For Disease Control project, officials say.

The tests are being performed in conjunction with the CDC in Atlanta to "help get a handle on the AIDS problem," said Donni Toth, coordinator of the Weber-Morgan District Health Department's AIDS-control program."CDC researchers are trying to come up with actual numbers" of people who have the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS, Toth said.

"There's a real need for some better estimates of what is happening so we know where to concentrate our efforts, time and resources in fighting the problem," she said.

"We have educated `guestimates' of 50 to 100 people infected with the AIDS virus for every one who actually comes down with the disease," Toth said. "But we really don't know the numbers."

The blood tests, which begin July 1, will be conducted as "double-blind" research - neither medical personnel nor clients will know whose blood is being tested.

George Usher of the state Department of Health said waste blood samples, or blood left over after being drawn for other kinds of tests, will be taken from a variety of people, including hospital patients, clinic clients, people being screened for tuberculosis, women of reproductive age and intravenous drug users.

The samples will be tested at the state Health Department lab and the results sent to the CDC, which is paying for the study, Usher said.

In Weber County, most blood samples will come from clients of the sexually transmitted disease clinic, where blood is routinely taken for syphilis tests, Toth said.

She said researchers will account for the fact that such clients have a higher risk of contracting the disease.

Toth said the clinic won't need the consent of clients because researchers won't know the identity of the blood source, and the clients themselves won't know if their blood is being tested.

"The disadvantage, of course, is that we won't know who tests positive so we can inform them," she said. "But since we offer the AIDS test to all clients, it isn't like we're not allowing them to be tested."

Toth said the clinic charges $5 for an AIDS test.