AIDS CoverageYou published a front page story...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

AIDS Coverage

You published a front page story July 23 headlined "Doctors were wrong: She didn't have AIDS virus." If you felt a journalistic ,, responsibility to report on AIDS, information from the Eighth International AIDS Conference should have been on page one, not page 12. The front page story received more coverage.

The details of this case are not available and, therefore, it is impossible to see exactly where the error was made.

It is clear that stories such as this one are not beneficial to HIV/AIDS prevention. All people at risk for infections should be encouraged to be tested, not scared away from testing.

Randy S. Berger M.D.

Towson

The writer is director of the AIDS division of the Baltimore County Health Department.

Infectious City?

Does Phyllis Brill know something that I don't? In her July 20 article about an AIDS victim from Bel Air, Ms. Brill says, "Ginger Bowen never thought it could happen to her . . . She didn't do drugs, didn't have a bi-sexual lover, didn't live in the inner city."

Has living in the "inner city" been determined a means of contracting the AIDS virus?

Presumably, what the writer meant to say was that certain

behavior that contributes to the spread of AIDS, such as unhygienic intravenous drug use and sex without condoms, is more prevalent among inner-city residents than suburbanites.

There are enough myths and misrepresentations regarding AIDS without adding life in the inner city to the list.

Additionally, as an inner-city resident and worker, I resent the pejorative use of this term.

We are all too quick to use "inner city" when finding fault with, placing blame on or characterizing the victims of urban problems facing us. As a result, the "inner city" becomes a big, unpersonalized "problem" that we easily dismiss as not our concern.

I can assure you that the inner city is a collection of people, businesses and organizations that engage in a wide variety of behavior, some but not all of which may result in spreading AIDS, just like some residents of the suburbs. Start spreading the facts, not myths.

Lori Gillen

Baltimore

Abortion

I would like to respond to Christyne Neff's letter, "Bizarre Coverage," July 22. Everyone knows that the issue of abortion has divided America, and there are people who feel strongly on both sides.

The pro-choicers say they are fighting for the rights of women. The pro-lifers say they are fighting for all unborn, yet alive children. Clearly we cannot find middle ground on this issue.

I think it comes down to whose life is being affected the most by an abortion. I do not think that either side has done a good job considering what the other side has to say, or trying to understand where the other side is coming from.

What I found most disturbing about Ms. Neff's letter was her terminology. She called the pro-life demonstrator "anti-choice." The pro-life people are not anti-choice. I can say this with truth because I am pro-life myself, and I am involved in the pro-life

movement. We are all for choices -- choices that do not involve killing innocent life.

So let's not change the words around. I will call her pro-choice because that is what she believes she is fighting for. Even if I personally believe she is wrong, I will not call her anti-life.

I will respect her and call her pro-choice because I think that this issue has divided America enough. There are enough barriers. Let's not get ugly about this issue. Let's try to understand each other.

Ruthie Michener

Columbia

Unsung Hero

In response to Walter Boyd's letter asserting Ross Perot is a wimp (July 22), I fail to see the warrant for such a label.

Contrary to Mr. Boyd's accusation, Mr. Perot did not lie to the American people. He did not promise "no new taxes" and then raise them. He did not dodge the draft or "exhale" on a joint.

He did, however, state that he would run if placed on all 50 state ballots. This did not take place and therefore he elected to bow out. Cowardice? No. Prudent? Yes.

You see, unlike the other political manikins in the race, Mr. Perot knows his political limits. He read what was attainable and opted to step down for the good of the entire race.

His run may have been short, but how refreshing it was to have a race where a candidate who speaks on business and values is able to do so without the aid of some lip synchronizer holding a cue card by a monitor.

Ross Perot is by no definition a wimp.

Quite the contrary.

For the resurgence Mr. Perot put back into this mundane race a better title for him should be "unsung hero."

Matt McElwee

Baltimore

Dose of Reality

Campaign for Our Children is giving America's teens just the dose of reality they need ("Ad urges teens to delay sex, stresses AIDS threat," The Sun, July 8).

I have to admit, the first time I saw their huge billboard along the side of I-95 with the word "virgin" ("Teach your children it's not a dirty word"), splashed across it in bright red spray paint, I blushed.

This year, as I watch their newest ad -- where a young man blows taps as we read that AIDS is now the sixth leading cause of death among 15-to-24-year-olds -- I know there is no time for blushing.

As a mentor and teacher to a group of 12-to-14-year-old girls on the cusp of adolescence, I have seen what kind of pressure they are under to become sexually active. These girls are being pressured to give up their virginity before they even give up their stuffed animals.

And as a staff person supporting President Bush's Adolescent Family Life programs, I am thrilled to see that something is being done about it -- both at the state and federal levels.

Under President Bush, the Department of Health and Human Services has published a set of goals called "Healthy People 2000." One of those goals is to reduce early adolescent sexual activity to no more than 15 percent of children under age 15 by the year 2000 -- compared to a current rate of 27 percent for girls and 33 percent for boys.

Through the Office of Adolescent Family Life, the federal government supports programs that teach sexual abstinence as the only real protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. And as the only emotionally healthy choice for adolescents.

So thank you, Baltimore, for posting your billboards, advertisements and commercials all over town.

Thank you for letting kids know that those are not the kind of odds they can live with either.

Deborah Orr Kinnaird

Washington

The writer is special assistant to the deputy assistant secretary for population affairs in the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

Wrong Conclusion

As a female and a frequent visitor to Centennial Park I was disappointed by the Perspective article "Incident at Centennial Park" that appeared in the Sunday Sun (July 19) by Deidre Nerreau McCabe.

It gave the erroneous impression that one boy, the Department of Juvenile Services, and the Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center were to blame for all of the safety problems at the park.

In fact, there were many assaults on women on and near the park before anyone from the Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center set foot in the park, and there have been assaults since they stopped going to the park.

I frequently walk alone at Centennial Park and on the grounds of the Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center. I feel much safer at O'Farrell than in the park.

No program can guarantee 100 percent success, just as no jail or detention center can guarantee that it is escape-proof. I am confident, however, that the O'Farrell center and its staff have turned around many young people, helping them to lead productive lives and increasing public safety.

Locking up one boy will not make Centennial Park a safer place for women to walk or jog alone. Putting barbed wire and steel bars around all of the youth centers will not make the park safer. Eliminating the Department of Juvenile Services and treating all juvenile offenders as adults will not make the park safer.

The only hope we have for making Centennial Park and the rest of our community safer is by educating everyone that women are people, not objects, and that unprovoked violence toward another is wrong.

Educating and rehabilitating delinquent youths is not always easy, but it is far more effective than locking kids in cells where they become an even greater risk to the community -- less socialized, more aggressive and more angry.

Frances E. Kessler

Ellicott City

The writer is a member of the Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center Advisory Council.

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