I am writing in response to "A Clinic That Serves Gays Warns Against 'Hysteria' Peter Hawley and Jim Graham (Close to Home, Sept. 22). I fail to see what "the good and decent and noble virtues of the American heart" have to do with a deadly epidemic.

I am a nurse employed in a hospital, and I am sick and tired of people like these two gentlemen trying to persuade the public that it is overreacting to AIDS. Do they really know? They ask why we are "manufacturing concerns of disease transmission based on theoretical possibilities." Theoretically, this disease has the potential for killing a large number of people, and already has.

It is very easy for these people to sit behind their desks with their studies and statistics and tell us not to worry about something that they really don't know everything about. Do you suppose that if they had to clean up after an AIDS patient got sick or if they had to change the sheets after the diarrhea that they would act like they truly believed only blood and intimate sexual contact transmit the disease?

I do not want my son attending school with anyone diagnosed with AIDS, be it a teacher, cafeteria worker or another student, just as I would not want my son attending if any of these people had hepatitis. AIDS victims keep speaking of their rights; I have my rights, and one of them is to protect myself and my family the best way I know how.

-- Mary Richardson

I disagree with Marina Newmyer's justification for keeping AIDS children out of the classroom ("A Parent Says No," Close to Home, Sept. 22). She asserts that "No parent would knowingly allow a child into an automobile or a playground if there were even a suspicion of danger." Current statistics tell us that 50,000 people die in automobile accidents every year; a large proportion are children. Emergency rooms are filled with children brought in every day from playground injuries. We must acknowledge that there is a risk every time a child rides in a car (and an even greater risk when the child is not buckled up). There is also a risk everytime a child climbs up the steep steps of a sliding board. But we must weigh the risks and proceed cautiously.

This is the same consideration we must give in deciding whether to admit AIDS children into the classroom. The question is not if there is a risk, but how great the risk is. Research suggests there is a risk of a child's contracting AIDS from another child, but it is an extremely small risk. Schools are acting responsibly when they assert that there are no guarantees; that the risks need to be weighed and decisions made on the available information.

-- Helaine Cohen