The editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association yesterday called for an end to sexual permissiveness to stop the spread of AIDS, saying that changes in life style can now do far more than science to protect against a disease he says threatens to be one of the great scourges of history.
Dr. George D. Lundberg proposed giving blood tests to spot signs of the AIDS virus in couples before marriage licenses are issued to them. He said women who are carrying the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) virus should not become pregnant. Other preventive measures might include not only avoiding blood products or needle-sharing with those infected, but also total avoidance of sexual activity with anyone who has been infected with the virus, whether or not they actually have the disease, he said..
In an editorial in this week's issue of the world's largest-circulation medical journal, which reaches 600,000 readers in seven languages, Lundberg presented his view of the social mores of our time:
"It was the age of overindulgence. It was the age of tolerance for anything in anybody . . . . It was the age of anticelibacy . . . . It was the age when homosexuality came out of the closet and became almost acceptable to those who once found it intolerable. It was the age of easy, irresponsible oversex, abortion on demand, chlamydia, and genital herpes. And it was the age of AIDS.
"Not since syphilis among the Spanish, plague among the French, tuberculosis among the Eskimos and smallpox among the American Indians has there been the threat of such a scourge," Lundberg wrote.
"It may behoove those people who do not wish to get AIDS to adjust their life style so as to practice living defensively -- particularly in the sexual arena. Individuals have the power to protect themselves more than science currently can," he said. "This is a great time to practice sexual monogamy."
As of June 14, there had been 10,879 cases among Americans, including 5,345 deaths. Federal officials estimate that from 500,000 to 1 million Americans have been infected with the virus, but only a small percentage of those who are infected appear to get the deadly disease.
Lundberg said he realized that his unusual statement is likely to generate controversy, but he said in an interview that he was concerned that the public was "too complacent" in assuming science would come to the rescue.
Jeffrey Levi of the National Gay Task Force here agreed with Lundberg that more should be done to prevent the spread of AIDS, but that rather than telling people to "stop having sex, we should teach them how to have it safely." He said some of the editorial's "rhetoric is designed to blame the victim" and might "provide fodder" for conservative groups to use in attacking what they call the "gay plague."
Dr. Harold Jaffe of the federal Centers for Disease Control said Lundberg was "right to point out the problem but members of the general public do not need to panic about AIDS."
Lundberg said that the medical community has "responded brilliantly" with an outpouring of new research to combat the spread of AIDS, but that "except for the blood-donor testing programs, there seem to have been few real efforts by government, medicine, law, the clergy or society leaders to curtail the transmission" of the disease. A notable exception, Lundberg said, is educational activities by the homosexual community.