Daniel C. Claude has a cure for AIDS. Just ask him. He concocted it in an old bottle of Dewar's White Label after God came to him in a "revelation" nearly three years ago and supplied him with a formula for the elixir.

Today, Claude, a Haitian gue'risseur, or traditional healer, will sell you the brothy, brownish brew for a dollar a shot -- or less if you're pressed for cash just now.

You'd find him the way most Haitians do: from the sign he has posted along John Brown Boulevard, the main drag running up the hill to the east of this city's slums. "AIDS is not an incurable illness," proclaims the shingle, nailed to a tree. Below it, Claude has signed his name.

Claude's sign was posted months ago, and it's as visible in this capital as a store window display on Connecticut Avenue is in Washington. But so far as is known, no bureaucrat has come and asked him to remove it, no police officer has spoken to him about it, no health worker has publicly expressed doubts about it -- and Haitian and Western doctors who work in Port-au-Prince just smile and shake their heads when they see it.

Haiti, a nation the size of Maryland that is swamped with a continent's worth of problems, has barely begun to fashion a plan to address the ravages of AIDS, despite the prevalence of the fatal disease here. Little wonder that by Claude's count, at least, 17 Haitians with AIDS have turned to him for help.

There are no funds in the government's meager health budget specifically for AIDS research, treatment or education. Just five beds -- all of them at one small, private hospital in Port-au-Prince -- are designated for AIDS patients, and they are funded with grant money from the United States.

Dr. Bernard Liautaud, a Port-au-Prince dermatologist who in 1979 diagnosed the first case of an AIDS-related infection in Haiti, said: "Money is very important. But more important is the decision to fight. And the government has not done enough in that direction."

Said the Rev. Hugo Trieste, director of the popular Catholic radio station Radio Soleil: "There's no doubt about the fact of {AIDS}, and of course it's spreading very much. But in a country where 35 percent of the babies die before their first birthday, to come to talk about the ravages of {AIDS} to me seems a little bit ridiculous. If you live long enough to get {AIDS} in Haiti, you're lucky."

What's more, there's little sign that much of this will soon change.

Plagued by one of the developing world's highest rates of infant mortality and by serious incidences of tuberculosis, malaria, malnutrition and parasitic infections -- all in one of the world's most densely populated nations -- Haiti simply hasn't got room for AIDS on its agenda of public health problems.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there is no indication that AIDS has entered the political debate that is under way in preparation for the Nov. 29 presidential elections, which are intended to produce a civilian government to replace the current military-led junta.

"For a public health worker, Haiti is a paradise," said Dr. Robert D. Fisher, the World Health Organization representative in Port-au-Prince. "You name the public health problem, we've got it."

A few doctors -- notably Dr. Jean William Pape of the Cornell Medical College faculty -- run a program to track and care for AIDS patients and prevent their sex partners from contracting the disease. Their research, funded by Cornell and the National Institutes of Health, has received scientific acclaim for explaining the changing epidemiology of AIDS in Haiti.

But despite these efforts, many AIDS sufferers are falling through the cracks -- canyons might be more apt -- of the Haitian health care system.

Hospitals have been sending known AIDS patients away, according to Haitian health professionals. Some of them wind up in Mother Theresa's Home for the Dying in the Sans Fils section of Port-au-Prince; others give up and go home -- or seek help from a traditional medicine man like Claude -- or just disappear.

Emile Cadet, for example, is an AIDS patient who was supposed to have been admitted to Port-au-Prince's general hospital earlier this month.

But at the hospital, an orderly said that Cadet had picked up some medicine and left for home, perhaps an hour earlier. At the home address supplied by the orderly, a neighbor said Cadet had been forced to sell his house (for $200) some time ago so that he could afford to buy medicine. He said Cadet was staying with his aunt not far away.

But when his aunt was finally tracked down, she shook her head sadly and said she hadn't seen Cadet in several days. She thought he was living in a lean-to out near the airport now, but she wasn't exactly sure. "Emile is very, very sick," she said in a low voice. "We think that he is going to die."

Public education about the spread of AIDS in Haiti has been as disorganized as the treatment of patients. Widely believed to be the only way to impede the disease's long-term progress through the population, information programs for the general public have been limited and, even in the view of some officials in the Health Ministry, off the mark.

Through one miscue or another, many of the initiatives designed to inform and educate Haitian citizens and health professionals about AIDS so far seem to have been stillborn or gone astray. Some examples: One of the only television advertisement on AIDS that aired until recently warned of the hazards of homosexual activity -- a form of transmission that has been supplanted by heterosexuality as the primary means of the disease's spread in Haiti. Although the ad has been pulled off the air, no new spot has replaced it. A World Health Organization grant for $420,000, approved in January by WHO headquarters in Geneva, has not yet been fully transmitted to the Haitian government. WHO blames Haitian officials for simply forgetting that the money was available; the government says the problem has been trying to extract the funds from WHO's bureaucracy. While the Health Ministry awaits the money, some officials have been paying for office furniture and supplies out of their own pockets, hoping they'll be reimbersed. A plan to produce a scientific booklet on AIDS, conceived nearly two years ago as an educational tool for health professionals, is only now being published after countless political, technical and bureaucratic delays. A secretary had to be persuaded to type the manuscript for free. It took five months simply to find someone to pay for the printing. Once at the printers, it languished for another five months.

As a result of these and other snafus, as well as the difficulties of reaching a public that is largely uneducated, illiterate and impoverished, ignorance about the disease is widespread. So far, very little information has been provided on how the disease can be transmitted or on what kinds of symptoms may be caused by AIDS.

"Right now, what is being said to the Haitian public about AIDS is what they're picking up from the international press and the very limited stuff on the radio," said Dr. Robert D. Fisher, the WHO representative in Haiti.

The political turmoil that has gripped the nation since early summer has also paralyzed the government, giving it little will or ability to undertake new programs, according to Haitian and American doctors.

When government officials are asked about the lethal disease, they tend to respond with indifference or outright hostility. Dr. Laurent Eustache, a health ministry official who is coordinating the national AIDS commission, said, "we share the concern of the international community," but then he launched into a description of other, more pressing health woes. "We have enough other priorities to keep us occupied," he said.

Haiti's health minister, Army Col. Jean Verly, put it this way: "I don't talk to anyone about {AIDS}. This country has been hurt by inconsiderate people talking about {AIDS} and Haiti."

The officials' attitude may be traced to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's 1982 classification of Haitians as a separate "risk group" for the disease. Critics said the classification was based on shoddy scientific data and failed to take into account that many Haitian AIDS patients were also members of other risk groups. Although CDC rescinded the classification three years later, the image of Haiti as a wellspring of AIDS has stuck.

The public relations damage that resulted is cited by officials and business leaders as a primary reason for the nosedive of tourism in Haiti and an unpromising investment outlook.

Eustache, the health ministry official in charge of the public education campaign, is optimistic about Haiti's future and says he is confident that AIDS can be controlled through public education. "When the public education campaign starts," he said, "people will be able to defend themselves."

But a minute later, he acknowledges that he is not sure when that time might come. "These days, the political situation in the country has affected everybody," he said, referring to the violence and debate that have marked preparations for the November presidential elections. "People are much more interested in political problems than health problems."