An initiative that would force California officials to prohibit AIDS victims from working in schools and restaurants was certified today to appear on the November ballot, making this the first state to test voter sentiment on the disease.
Promoted by two followers of political extremist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., the measure is expected to incite an emotional and expensive campaign about the threat to the general public from the acquired immune deficiency syndrome virus.
Political organizations led by homosexuals, principal victims of the disease in this country, and the California Medical Association have denounced the initiative.
Khushro Ghandhi, western coordinator of LaRouche's National Democratic Policy Committee and an initiative sponsor, said it is supported by several churches and health professionals concerned about the state's failure to keep victims of the fatal disease from contact with healthy citizens.
In an interview, Ghandhi accused state officials of failing to pursue necessary measures against AIDS because of pressure from homosexuals and cost-conscious legislators. If the measure passes, he said, "it will transform the situation politically, not just in California but nationally."
Los Angeles City Council member Joel Wachs, author of a city ordinance banning discrimination against AIDS victims, said the initiative represents "the most sweeping rollback of civil rights . . . since Nazi Germany."The 12-member council voted unanimously yesterday to support a motion by Wachs that the city oppose the measure.
The initiative, which gained more than the required 443,219 petition signatures, would officially define AIDS as an infectious disease and allow state and county officials to use the same wide powers, including quarantine, that they may now exercise to control such diseases as measles or tuberculosis.
Ghandhi said that state health officials would have discretion in applying the initiative but that it could be used to require blood testing of anyone suspected of carrying the AIDS virus. It would require that test results be reported to state authorities and empower the state to bar the thousands of California AIDS victims from working in schools and restaurants.
Opponents of the initiative charge that it goes too far because research indicates the disease is transmitted only through intimate contact, usually sexual, or in using contaminated blood or hypodermic needles. "The AIDS virus is not airborne, and they know it," Wachs said.
Initiative supporters say the disease is too new and research too limited to assure that other forms of contact would not be dangerous.
Federal officials report 21,915 AIDS victims, of whom 12,008 have died in the United States as of this week, and some say the national death toll will exceed 175,000 by 1991. As of April 30, Los Angeles and San Francisco ranked behind only New York City in numbers of reported victims with 1,753 and 1,750, respectively.