Two June 13 articles illustrate a disturbing trend in the AIDS epidemic: A report on the explosion of new AIDS cases in Russia [front page] demonstrated that government's slow reaction to the burgeoning number of cases in Siberia, and a remembrance from some gay men that evoked our country's own ignorance of the disease when it appeared more than 20 years ago ["Gays Recall a Silent Great Communicator," Style].

In Russia, the number of HIV-positive people has increased more than 5,000 percent in five years -- during which time President Vladimir Putin "has mentioned AIDS only once in a major speech." Similarly, the White House was first questioned about AIDS in 1982, but President Ronald Reagan did not publicly address the issue until 1987, after thousands had died.

In the United States, the disease arose in the gay community; in Russia, outbreaks began among drug users. In both cases, conventional wisdom was that the disease would ravage these marginalized groups and die out. In both cases, that has turned out to be wrong.

So many nations have learned the hard way the devastating power of HIV and AIDS. How is it that Russians still don't understand how the disease spreads and appear unable to take steps to stem infections? Global monetary assistance helps those already infected, but global education needs to be a priority as well.

ANN MARIE CZABAN

Alexandria