D.C. Fire Chief Theodore R. Coleman ordered firefighters and rescue personnel in all the city's fire stations yesterday to stop posting addresses of known AIDS victims in places where they can be seen by the public.
Coleman's orders came in response to reports that rescue workers in some stations had begun posting the lists as a means of alerting coworkers who might come in contact with AIDS victims.
One such list of three addresses, written on the stationhouse blackboard of an ambulance crew on Lanier Place NW, was seen recently by a civilian who had come to the station to register his bicycle, fire officials said.
Fire department spokesman Ray Alfred said the decision to order that list and others removed from public view came after officials received inquiries from a gay-oriented newspaper here.
"The concern of the gay community is that we've got it the list there and the public coming in for any reason can see it," Alfred said. "We want the gay community to know that it has nothing to do with gays. It has everything to do with communicable diseases."
Alfred said rescue workers routinely record the addresses of people known to have communicable diseases so that personnel can take precautions such as wearing gloves and face masks and disinfecting rescue vehicles.
"We expect anyone who knows that they have a communicable disease to let us know that," Alfred said. "That is only responsible. If we didn't know that person had a communicable disease, we could be passing it on to other people."
Alfred said the department does not seek out information on AIDS victims and that the lists probably were compiled by ambulance crews who responded to emergency calls from people with the disease.
The potential for public exposure to the disease has become an increasingly sensitive issue nationwide as the number of AIDS victims increases.
Gay leaders here reacted angrily to news that the fire department was compiling the lists, noting that the medical profession has found no evidence that the disease can be contracted from casual contact. Such lists, they argue, threaten victims with harassment and discrimination.