AIDS: Several Omissions

In your special edition on AIDS, "After 10 Years -- Where We're Headed" {June 19}, the list of resources would have been more complete had it included the Episcopal Caring Response to AIDS. Founded in 1986, it sponsors the Michael Haass House, administered by the Whitman-Walker Clinic's Schwartz Housing Services. The group now includes 34 parishes from inner-city Washington, the Maryland suburbs and rural areas of southern Maryland, as well as Integrity -- an organization of gay and lesbian Episcopalians -- and the Union of Black Episcopalians.

In addition to the Haass House, we operate the area's only full-time chaplaincy for AIDS-affected persons, a program of retreats for people with AIDS and an AIDS education program and resource library. Recently, we set up a respite care program for children with AIDS and HIV and their families. Additional information can be obtained by contacting ECRA, 733 15th St. NW, Suite 315, Washington, D.C. 20005. Steven C. Lembesis President, Episcopal Caring Response to AIDS

I applaud your retrospective on AIDS. Surprisingly absent, however, was a discussion of people with transfusion-associated AIDS. In many respects, these people are the targets of the same ostracism and discrimination as those who practice "high risk" behaviors. Health-care providers, employers and insurers who choose to discriminate against people with HIV do not differentiate between those who contract the virus through contaminated blood and those who were infected by other means. Through May 1990, there were more than 3,300 reported cases of transfusion-associated AIDS. How many more there are with the virus who have not developed AIDS is unknown.

The nation's blood-banking industry needs to work consistently toward a safe blood supply. With the advent of tests for the AIDS antibody in March 1985, the blood supply was made infinitely safer. This by no means indicates, however, that there is no risk in receiving blood. There is a "window" period, during which a person recently infected with the virus will incorrectly test negative but will in fact carry the virus. Moreover, human and laboratory errors occur, and untested units of blood have in rare instances inadvertently been released to hospitals. Diligent attention to attracting suitable blood donors should be the blood banks' first priority.

Blood banks must strive to attract only donors who are altruistically motivated. Incentives, such as drawings for free prizes or leave from work, should be eliminated. Blood banks must instruct employers not to pressure employes to donate blood. In the HIV Blood Donor Study Group at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, 27 percent of HIV-infected blood donors said they felt pressure to donate blood, from co-workers or bosses.

When blood banks recognize that preventing the devastation of lives is paramount, we will have progressed toward greater compassion and support for all HIV carriers. Robert K. Jenner, Esq. Freeman & Richardson, P.A. Bethesda

Medical Care for 'Political' Prisoners

As an attorney involved in the effort to obtain treatment for Dr. Alan Berkman, described in Larry Thompson's article "Prisoner Demands Prompt Medical Care" {Issues, June 5}, I was dismayed to note that a crucial part of his story has been omitted: The U.S. government's manipulation of security concerns to deny necessary medical care to one of its political opponents.

There is nothing in Dr. Berkman's history as a political activist and doctor in poor communities nor his prison record that justifies his designation as a "high-security prisoner." Yet for his beliefs and associations alone he is so classified by the Bureau of Prisons, and the government used this to justify shackling him to an operating table during abdominal surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes and returning him to the D.C. Jail a half-hour after surgery.

That the delays and indifference in the Berkman case are considered normal for prisoners in the D.C. Department of Corrections is an indictment of that system. However, there was nothing "normal" about how the issue of security was used to delay diagnosis and treatment of Dr. Berkman's Hodgkin's disease. This happened even though a federal judge ordered that Dr. Berkman be transferred to a prison hospital affiliated with the Mayo Clinic, and D.C. area hospitals had agreed to treat him. Debra S. Katz Bernabei & Katz