If you missed last night's debut on HBO of "AIDS: Everything You and Your Family Need to Know . . . But Were Afraid to Ask," you still have seven chances to see it this month. It's worth making the effort even if you don't have Home Box Office, even if it means asking a friend to tape it for you.
The 45-minute question and answer program is hosted by Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop, who brings his unalloyed candor to a subject too often couched in obfuscating euphemism.
The Surgeon General answers questions collected by HBO producers from interviews with people in focus groups, on the street, in schools. Some are the same questions he hears all the time: Can I get AIDS from a mosquito? (No.) From kissing? ("You find the virus of AIDS in practically every fluid in the body, but it is only in sufficient quantities to be transmitted to another person in semen or in blood.")
Or the questions may be old, but the answers sharper:
Q: "If I were to use a public telephone on the street, should I be worried about getting AIDS that way?"
A: "You couldn't get AIDS from that telephone if one person spit in it and the other person went and licked it up. That's not the way AIDS is transmitted."
Among the questions not so regularly asked:
Q: "Would I be more at risk contracting AIDS having sex during my period?"
A: "I think the answer is yes. If, indeed, it is semen and blood that we're concerned about, it makes sense that if a woman is menstruating . . . she probably has a higher incidence of picking up the disease . . ."
Koop says that even if a child with AIDS bites someone, there is virtually no threat of passing the illness. He reminds viewers that condoms, to be effective, must be used during foreplay -- from the first moment of genital contact -- as well as at the time of ejaculation. And to a woman who suggests that AIDS is a "scourge for being disobedient to the laws of God," he responds: "If someone wants to think that this is a judgment from God, that doesn't mean that that person has to also assume the role of judge . . . We're not going to win this problem unless you focus your attention on fighting the disease and stop bashing people."
The program will be repeated on HBO Friday, Oct 16 at 10 a.m.; Thursday, Oct. 22 at 11.30 a.m. and midnight; Sunday, Oct. 25 at noon and 10:30 p.m.; Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 8 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 31 at 5 p.m.