Charles Krauthammer {op-ed, June 12} misses the principal reason for a concerted federal effort, like the Manhattan Project, to stop the AIDS epidemic. AIDS is a newly discovered disease with no proven treatment now available; it is usually fatal within a year. Yet, medical research has advanced rapidly and, with sufficient resources, a treatment may soon be found that will dramatically alter this grim picture.

It will not detract from the legitimate needs of other sick or disabled people for the federal government to seize this opportunity. In fact, AIDS research surely will lead to breakthroughs in other medical research, just as basic cancer research laid the groundwork for discovery of the AIDS virus.

Mr. Krauthammer also suggests that an expanded effort is not required because "only" 270,000 cases are expected by 1991 and most of those will be among gay men and intravenous drug users. It is, of course, offensive to civilized values to suggest that the lives of these people, and of their sexual partners and newborn children, are any less valuable than any other lives that might be lost. Mr. Krauthammer discounts the dangers of heterosexual transmission, but given the long dormancy period of the virus, the evidence is not in. Meanwhile, millions of people may unknowingly risk infection while we waste precious years of medical progress and public education.

Contrary to Mr. Krauthammer's assertion, the gay and lesbian community of this country does not oppose AIDS antibody testing. We believe that counseling and voluntary testing are a necessary part of any prevention campaign, and that those efforts must be greatly expanded. When given the needed information, people have altered their behavior dramatically and substantially reduced the transmission of AIDS.

Mr. Krauthammer mentions no need to expand these efforts, but quickly blames those who are infected for having "collaborated" in contracting this disease. Shame on him.

VIC BASILE

Executive Director, Human Rights Campaign Fund

Washington