Separate hospitals for AIDS patients could lead to a decline in care and an increase in discrimination, a task force said last week in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The report by the 22-member New York City Task Force on Single-Disease Hospitals looked at suggestions by some officials that AIDS hospitals, similar to tuberculosis sanitariums of the 19th century, be established.

The task force concluded that the creation of such hospitals "would promote negative stereotyping and bias against those with the disease, particularly as the disease comes to affect black and Hispanic persons disproportionately."

The creation of AIDS hospitals would probably result in poorer quality care because such facilities often have trouble attracting funding and staff.

"Ill-conceived solutions can quickly become part of the problem, and the record indicates that single-disease facilities would do just that," said the group, led by David Rothman and Eileen Tynan of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. "When tuberculosis hospitals were common, physicians were reluctant to report cases of tuberculosis and patients developed effective strategies for avoiding the facilities," they said. "Although sanitariums were not punitive facilities, they did isolate residents and make re-entry into society more difficult."