Your editorial entitled "Harassing NIH" {May 22} ignored the desperate state of government AIDS research that led ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) to protest at the National Institutes of Health.

ACT UP did not go to the National Institutes of Health to harass employees. We could have done that by telephone at considerably less expense. In fact, we sent a letter to everyone listed in the NIH phone directory to inform him of the true target of our protest. ACT UP salutes the NIH scientists, nurses and medical support staff who have forsworn more lucrative positions to conduct fundamental medical research. However, ACT UP deplores the way these same dedicated individuals have had their research projects delayed by a few who determine research priorities and allocate funding.

Government studies of experimental AIDS therapies are conducted under the auspices of the AIDS Clinical Trial Group. Crucial studies of drugs for opportunistic infections that were proposed two or three years ago have not yet begun because of opposition from key executive committee members, while tens of thousands of people with AIDS have died of these same infections. Instead, the ACTG executive committee has devoted most of its resources to repetitive and unenlightening studies of AZT, an already approved drug.

This skewed application of increasingly limited government research funds must stop immediately. The ACTG needs to devote more resources to the study of the opportunistic infections that kill people with AIDS.

ACT UP went to NIH to demand that the ACTG study the many drugs that have gone untested. What other options does ACT UP have? To wait for the president to appoint an NIH director who might intercede? To wait for the ACTG to do the studies it proposed three years ago? To wait for the AIDS caseload to balloon to the point where pharmaceutical companies have a financial incentive to develop treatments for opportunistic infections? Wait for the press to expose the mismanagement and misallocation of the ACTG's resources?

We cannot wait for any of these things.

Richard Lynn

The writer is a member of ACT UP New York.

The headline ''Harassing NIH'' is rather ironic, because those who live with HIV either directly (by being HIV positive) or indirectly (by loving and caring for one with HIV disease) have been harassed, beleaguered and persecuted by NIH, the Food and Drug Administration, the rest of the federal government and ignorant uninformed Americans for nearly 10 years. If we don't ''harass'' back, we'll cease to be.

The editorial asks, "Why were a thousand AIDS activists -- members of a group called ACT UP -- blocking traffic, parading through the Rockville and Bethesda buildings of the National Institutes of Health, throwing smoke bombs and conducting sit-ins?"

The answer can be found in the literature supplied in the ACT UP press kit: ''the National Institutes of Health receives billions in public research funds each year, and yet its AIDS research has produced precious little for people living with HIV and AIDS. In particular, the AIDS Clinical Trials Group has proved to be a massive, dysfunctional failure in its inept efforts to lengthen the lives of HIV infected people. This is why we are bringing our demands, with our bodies, to the NIH. . . ."

''The squeaky wheel gets the grease,'' the saying goes. I'm here to tell you that ACT UP and lots of others will be squeaking to the high heavens until drugs to save the lives of our citizenry affected with the HIV disease are made available.

G. Harold Mehlman