Alexandria will join a growing number of cities nationwide that are responding to the AIDS crisis by requiring their firefighters and ambulance workers to wear rubber gloves on emergency calls.

Acting Fire Chief Jack Beam said the policy, which could be in place in two weeks, also will mandate the use of plastic masks during mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Alexandria has reported 63 cases of AIDS, one of the highest totals of any Virginia locality.

"We're not going to stop the spread of AIDS, but if we can eliminate contact with body fluids we are doing all that is recommended and prudent at this time," Beam said.

Although the AIDS virus has been found in saliva and tears, scientists say the virus does not exist in sufficient concentrations to be transmitted through these body fluids. Officials at the federal Centers for Disease Control say the virus is transmitted only through blood and semen.

Officials at many fire departments in the Washington area report that they do not require the use of gloves or masks but recommend their use to prevent the spread of infection. In 1985, the CDC issued precautions for emergency personnel nationwide, advising them to use disposable gloves in handling patients and to take precautions when performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

A number of municipalities around the country are adopting policies that require emergency personnel to wear gloves, according to Charles Fallis of the Centers for Disease Control.

Beam said he has not heard any opposition to the Alexandria plan, adding, "I think that I am on solid ground doing this, and some negative feedback isn't going to stop us."

The firefighters union, Alexandria Firefighters Local 2141, fully supports the policy, according to Jane Davidson, a union officer.

Before any final plan is drawn up, several city officials will be able to add their comments, Beam said. The fire chief is the final authority in setting department policy.

In the District, firefighters are issued gloves, and each firehouse is equipped with a mechanical resuscitator so firefighters rarely have to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, according to Thomas McCaffery, deputy chief of the D.C. Fire Department.

Arlington Fire Chief Claude Jenkins said, "We don't have {gloves} as a policy at this point, but it is something that is forthcoming."

Thomas Brinkley, a spokesman for the Prince George's County Fire Department, said, "We strongly recommend that {emergency personnel} wear gloves on all calls because you never know when you're coming into contact with any infectious diseases."

Several independent fire departments in Montgomery County have policies requiring rubber gloves, according to Lt. Richard Long of the county fire department.