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The epidemic widens


THE HOPE that the dreaded spread of acquired immune deficiency syndrome would be tightly contained has long gone by the boards.

The authoritative Centers for Disease Control, in a new statement, reports that diagnosed cases of AIDS this year increased 29 percent for women as compared to 18 percent among men.

That trend line is particularly alarming because one case of AIDS in a woman these days can have a double whammy: the AIDS baby. That growth curve of AIDS-born infants has sprung across the land. In Florida, state health officials report that one out of every 220 women giving birth is now HIV-positive.

It is believed that the increasing pool of heterosexual men with AIDS is the single most significant new factor in the infection of women.

The only silver lining in this very threatening cloud is that one factor behind the relative decline of male infection is the strong measures taken by the male homosexual community in general to combat the disease. The very success of that campaign contains an important message. While the medical community searches for the magic bullet -- or machine gun -- to wipe out the epidemic, those people at risk must learn to reduce their chance of exposure. That means avoiding the very activities that give rise to the spread, whether drug use or risky sexual contact.

Curbing those activities will require a continuing national educational campaign -- led ultimately by the White House -- to keep AIDS from a further acceleration of its scorched-Earth march through America.

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