Richard Holbrooke hit the nail on the head ["AIDS: The Strategy Is Wrong," op-ed, Nov. 29]. The strategy for fighting HIV is obvious when the only way to determine infection is a test. Yet the world's response to AIDS is contorted to ignore the obvious benefits of HIV testing.

In 1987 I developed the world's first home AIDS test, a simple blood-collection device. The Food and Drug Administration banned it, and reversing the ban took a decade. Similar bans are in place around the world, for example, in the United Kingdom.

The world should be doing everything possible to expand, not limit, testing options. When politics takes precedence over science, we all lose.




Richard Holbrooke only fleetingly mentioned a problem that the World Health Organization is not confronting: monogamous women thrown out of their homes because of a disease they got from their husbands.

Jim Yong Kim, head of the WHO's AIDS program, suggested in an interview on World AIDS Day last year that, after unprotected sex, "property stripping" was the biggest problem with the spread of AIDS. Property stripping is the right of the husband's family to inherit all his property after he dies. This once had some logic; the husband's family had the responsibility for the widow and her children, a brother of the deceased often taking the widow as a second wife. But in the time of AIDS, the widow is likely infected. So if her brother-in-law hasn't died from AIDS himself, he is not willing to marry her, but she still loses her home. Some women turn to prostitution to support themselves, thus spreading the illness.

Despite his own identification of the gravity of the problem, Dr. Kim and the WHO seem to have done nothing to deal with it. I hope Mr. Holbrooke will expand his targets.