Haiti, AIDS and Sexuality

I am writing to take issue with a quote included in "AIDS in Haiti" {Cover Story, Sept. 29}. Dr. Bernard Liautaud was quoted as saying, "There are two groups of homosexuals. There are those who do it for pleasure and those who do it for economic reasons." The use of this quote undermines the positive effect the article could have had. America is dealing with AIDS now. It is crucial that a concern for all people with AIDS, including homosexuals, not just heterosexuals, be developed.

Let me give an example of the implications of the quote cited above. Am I to suppose by analogy with Dr. Liautaud's quote that there are two groups of heterosexuals? Those who do it for pleasure and those who do it for money (prostitutes, gigolos)? I guess we should add a couple of other groups: those who do it to make babies and those who do it to get even (rapists).

Of course this suggestion is abominable, as is Dr. Liautaud's statement. Gay men and lesbian women enter into relationships for reasons of intimacy, love and partnership for "doing it" just as heterosexuals do.

The point of the article on "AIDS in Haiti" is well taken. But precisely because the threat of AIDS is so great in the American heterosexual as well as homosexual populations, not to forget the bisexual population, articles on AIDS should not be written as vehicles for spreading homophobia. There's enough of that going around already. Arlene L. Puryear Arlington

According to the article, Haitian researchers think that AIDS was introduced to Haiti by American and Canadian homosexual vacationers in the late 1970s. Some American researchers have suggested that American homosexual vacationers were infected by Haitians. All that is known about AIDS in the two countries is that it arose at about the same time.

If there were a homosexual connection, one would think that by now a homosexual man with AIDS who had vacationed earlier in Haiti and had sex with a Haitian male prostitute there would have been identified and announced to the world. Peter Patrick Washington

More Information From NIH

"Battling Over Breast Cancer Studies" {Healthtalk, Sept. 29} demonstrates again that people must take responsibility for their own health. As described in the article, the evidence is overwhelming that a diet high in fat is a major contributor to the development of cancer. Yet the medical research industry will not accept it and is unwilling to agree to a study that may provide even more evidence.

Dr. Vincent T. DeVita, director of the National Cancer Institute, is quoted as saying that "more research is needed." For what? The mandate of NIH is to further the health of the American public through research and public education. Research accepted and published by the most prestigious medical journals has, for many years, demonstrated to the prudent reader the relationship of a high-fat diet with cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It is past time for the National Institutes of Health to emphasize the public education aspect of their mandate. Larry Shute Washington

A 'Useful' Life Span

The "Second Opinion" column states that medicine overemphasizes extending life {Sept. 8}. It suggests imposing an upper bound to the age of patients for receiving life-extending treatments. When one exceeds this age, treatment should be used only to relieve pain and suffering.

I recognize that some terminal patients are in such poor condition that attempting to delay death might be pointless. However, a general suggestion of setting age limits to extending life is unjust and truly discriminates against a certain group of people.

First of all, such limits must be artificially and arbitrarily set without scientific basis. Asserting that useful life span is 61 or 92 years is not scientifically founded. Although one can compute an average life span, there are great variations between individuals, and so useful life and physical condition is a case-by-case situation.

Setting limits implies that the life of a certain part of humanity, namely senior citizens, is less precious than other human life. Such belief is obviously and outrageously unethical. With so much thought in recent years about the right to die with dignity, let us not forget to protect the right to live with dignity! Winston C. Chow Colonial Beach, Va.

Proud to Be a Student

As a senior medical student at the George Washington University School of Medicine, I quite enjoyed reading Victor Cohn's article, "When Is a Doctor Not a Doctor?" {The Patient's Advocate, Sept. 29}. The article seems to imply widespread acceptance among authorities in introducing students as "doctor." During our preclinical lectures and initial experience on the wards at GW, we were strongly advised not to introduce ourselves as other than medical students (although we've all experienced being introduced as "doctor" by residents). I've not found there to be any disadvantage with honesty toward patients in this regard, nor any need to mislead. The privilege of service as a student of medicine is enough.Tim Taylor Washington

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