RICHMOND, JAN. 14 -- Virginia Attorney General Mary Sue Terry said today that she thinks it should be a crime, perhaps homicide, to knowingly transmit the deadly AIDS virus.

Although she stopped short of calling for legislation that would make it a crime, Terry said she will ask the General Assembly to study possible criminal sanctions for those who spread the disease, which is most frequently transmitted through sexual contact.

The AIDS proposal is part of a 17-bill legislative package, which included insurance reform and a tougher stance on drunk drivers, delivered today by Terry, who is expected to announce at the end of the session whether she will seek the Democratic nomination for governor next year.

Terry's announcement was part of a flurry of activity dealing with AIDS, which is sure to provoke a furor during the 90-day legislative session that began Wednesday.

Del. David David G. Brickley (D-Prince William), who said he was unaware of Terry's proposal, plans to sponsor legislation that would make it a felony to knowingly transmit AIDS and require mandatory testing of persons convicted of prostitution and drug-related offenses.

Del. Bernard S. Cohen (D-Alexandria) described the idea of prosecuting AIDS carriers as "laughable."

"People who do that {knowingly spread the virus} are not deterred by making it a crime because they already face the ultimate punishment, a death sentence," he said today. "What are we going to do, cancel their health insurance?"

Nonetheless, Cohen said he plans to introduce his own version of a bill that would study all aspects of the AIDS dilemma.

Sen. Dudley J. (Buzz) Emick Jr. (D-Fincastle) has agreed to sponsor Terry's proposal for an AIDS study, but indicated he was not fully in agreement with the attorney general's remarks, which he said had "political implications."

Emick particularly questioned Terry's suggestion that purposefully spreading AIDS be considered a homicide. But Emick said that in most of those instances in which AIDS is sexually transmitted it already is a crime.

Pulling a copy of the state criminal code from his office shelf, the western Virginia lawyer turned to a section entitled "Morals and Decency," and read a statute that makes it a crime for unmarried persons to have sex. The misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $100.

Terry said Florida, Nevada and Idaho make it a crime to spread AIDS, and that up to 500 measures concerning the disease have been adopted in 25 states.

She said she does not know "the range of penalties," except that in one state the punishment is "up to 20 years." She acknowledged that there might be "proof problems" with such legislation, but that in at least one state, "you don't have to prove intent."

When someone suggested that such a law might not deter a person who already knows he or she is dying, Terry responded that "many laws don't deter," including some aimed at drunk drivers.

Gov. Gerald L. Baliles declined to take a stance on AIDS legislation when asked about it at a news conference today.

Other legislation proposed by Terry would allow police to sell assets confiscated from drug dealers to finance antidrug measures; make it easier to jail drunk drivers; allow the state to provide insurance for day care centers and other hard-to-insure businesses, and consider whether to eliminate the insurance industry's antitrust exemptions.

Terry, who is expected to fight it out with Lt. Gov. L. Douglas Wilder for their party's gubernatorial nomination in 1989, said her legislative package was not designed to further her political goals.

But she added that she is receiving "significant encouragement" and is under "considerable pressure" to announce her candidacy in the coming weeks.

Wilder, who also is officially undecided, is hosting a $1,000-a-cou- ple fund raiser, billed as a birthday party (he will be 57 Saturday), here Jan. 23.