The government is printing 45 million copies of a new brochure on AIDS and will start distributing the eight-page booklet next week, an Reagan administration official said yesterday.
The pamphlet will be distributed through state and local health departments, community-based organizations and large employers, said Campbell Gardett, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services.
The booklet was originally prepared by the Centers for Disease Control for possible mailing to individual households.
Two days ago, the administration was criticized by a House subcommittee for not heeding a congressional directive for a national mailing.
Gardett said 25 million copies will be available for initial distribution Sept. 30 in conjunction with AIDS Awareness and Prevention Month in October. The remaining 20 million will be available later, perhaps within weeks.
Gardett said in an interview that distribution of the new brochure through local outlets "does not preclude the possibility of a mailer." But he said department officials continue to have "questions whether mailing to every address in the country is an appropriate or effective way" to spread the government's message on acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
Although months in preparation, draft versions of the document have been closely held within the department and it is not known how the information in it will compare with the explicit nature of Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's 36-page report on AIDS.
In that report, Koop said use of condoms is the only protection against sexual transmission of AIDS for those who do not practice abstinence or do not have sex exclusively with an uninfected partner in a monogamous relationship.
In a Sept. 22 letter to Sen. Lawton Chiles (D-Fla.), HHS Secretary Otis R. Bowen said his department planned a national mailing but that it would not be ready by October "because the time required to develop the materials and to arrange logistical support was not adequate."
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health, was skeptical. "It looks like the money's been impounded and the booklet has not been sent out," Waxman said Wednesday.
A supplemental appropriation signed by President Reagan in April contained $20 million for AIDS education. Congress said in an accompanying report that part of the money should finance the mailing.
In his letter to Chiles, Bowen said the $20 million is being used for diverse educational purposes this fall. He cited an advertising agency contract, an AIDS hotline, an AIDS clearinghouse, distribution of Koop's report on AIDS and education grants to state and local health departments, businesses and nonprofit groups.
Ann E. McFarren, executive director of the AIDS Action Council, said the brochure distribution plan "doesn't fit the bill of making sure every household gets information, which I think is the goal we need to work toward."
"I don't believe Congress is going to be pleased with this at all," said McFarren, whose organization lobbies on behalf of some 300 other AIDS organizations and treatment providers.