Fells Point condom store not offensiveRegarding your...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Fells Point condom store not offensive

Regarding your editorial "Where can a rubber tree grow?" (Oct. 2), as a resident of Fells Point I am concerned and puzzled about the controversy over the opening of the Rubber Tree, a condom boutique proposed for Broadway.

I have been to one of these boutiques in Washington, D.C. I saw nothing offensive nor degrading about that store. It was set up in a very tasteful, aesthetically pleasing way, as I am sure the one on Broadway would be.

Condoms are and should be a part of everyday life. As a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, I took a course in human sexuality, which reinforced my firm belief in the advantages and necessities of condom use.

The last time I checked, this was a free country. People should be allowed to choose for themselves whether or not they wish to go inside, just as they would choose a TV or radio station. If you don't like it, don't go inside!

Condoms are available everywhere -- why shouldn't there be a store that specializes in selling them? Those who use condoms might find a brand that they can't get in a health center or drug store.

Why don't those who oppose such a shop protest the sale of condoms in drug or grocery stores? They are on display and readily available at those places.

I hardly see how this is comparable to The Block. No sex for money is being exchange here; no prostitutes will flock to Broadway just because there is a store that sells condoms.

I don't see why this has to become a political issue. If the store does well, it means that people see its benefits and advantages. If not, it will close down on its own.

Stop telling me what to do with my body, where to shop and limiting my choices. Tell me what you will do with those people who contract human immunodeficiency virus and other sexually transmitted diseases or who have unwanted pregnancies because of the lack of availability of condoms.

Wake up and see the reality of these situations. Until you come up with solutions to these problems, let others make choices for themselves.

Karen M. Hillman

Fells Point

Marching orders

Despite the usual election hype, certain incontrovertible reality is apparent -- both the legislative (both sides of the aisle) and the executive branches have "fiddled while Rome burned." We cannot maintain our standard of living without putting our fiscal house in order.

To the candidates just elected, I would strongly recommend for their support the following:

1. Zero-based budgeting, enforced by line item veto, will ensure accountability of both the legislative and the executive branches.

2. Spending bills must be matched by defined and real revenue sources. "Savings from defense cuts" are not a revenue source and secondly have been promised/spent many times over.

3. Public budget accounting standards and fiduciary standards of accountability for expenditure of public money; most current public budgets would violate Securities and Exchange Commission standards.

4. Capping the growth of entitlements -- extension of entitlement costs out 20 years equals fiscal disaster.

5. For those who can afford it, we must allocate/tax the appropriate costs for entitlements, including Medicare and Social Security, both of which are programs that provide far more benefits to the average recipient than are paid for by those recipients.

6. Gasoline tax of at least 50 cents over five years. Basic energy policy and environmental issues alone mandate such a proposal and the revenue would make substantial inroads on the operating deficits.

7. Health care -- we need to control the unjustified growth of health care costs and the tremendous administration expenses.

8. The hidden subsidies (includes tax breaks/deductions) in our laws need to be addressed. If we are going to subsidize an industry/activity, that subsidy (public cost) should be publicly scrutinized for (a) its appropriateness in the public versus special interest, and (b) its affordability priority in light of our current fiscal condition.

9. Tax breaks should be focused on job creation such as investment tax credits, capital gain relief for original issue/treasury stock investment, etc. We can no longer afford excessive mortgage deductions and second home interest deductions, for example. Should be phased out.

We have major institutional structural economic problems relating to the amount of public and private debt that need to be addressed (combined debt in 1980, $4.1 trillion; in 1992, $14.3 trillion).

Our nation can no longer afford Dr. Feelgood political procrastination in accepting fiscal reality.

The responsibility for a sound fiscal course is the elected candidates; unless they make it their priority, their re-elections will not be mine or many other voters' priority.

E. Alexander Adams

Clarksville

Failed directors

I respectfully suggest the current Blue Cross-Blue Shield board of directors can best serve subscribers by tendering their resignations. They obviously do not have in mind what is best for those they are supposed to serve.

The current directors have been extremely successful in their careers, but I think they have failed miserably in their responsibilities as board directors.

Audrey Gilbert

Baltimore

African-Americans must join the battle against AIDS

Since its beginnings in 1981, the devastating impact of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) on African-Americans has steadily increased. The AIDS crisis has brought us face to face with complex medical and social challenges unparalleled in this century.

Currently there are 2,412 diagnosed cases of AIDS in Baltimore City. Approximately 80 percent of those cases are African-American adults and 95 percent of the pediatric cases are children of color.

If these numbers seem unimpressive, I caution you to consider that many persons who are HIV-infected are not aware that they are infected. Therefore, they are not represented in these numbers.

Consider that many of the infected may have injection-drug use backgrounds, multiple sex partners and a history of other sexually transmitted diseases.

Consider that the leading cause of death for African-Americans between the ages of 25 and 44 is HIV, and that increases among heterosexual women in their childbearing years continue to rise.

For years, many in the public health arena have defined AIDS as the twin epidemic because the disease is most commonly transmitted through sexual contact and needle-sharing behavior.

Yes, it is an appropriate moniker, but we should refer to this virus as a multiple epidemic, as it is also the epidemic of fear, ignorance, behavior, homophobia, discrimination and, often, poverty.

All of the above account for why our community must collectively find its voice in addressing the epidemic and developing a medical and support services response to it.

Prevention/education and counseling and testing remain critical components of the plan, but there must also be vast expansion of treatment programs and other medical services made available to the many individuals who are already living with the disease.

In an effort to counter the devastation the epidemic is having on the African-American community, we must all raise our voices on the issues of HIV/AIDS.

There is a role for everyone to play in addressing this concern. We can all become ambassadors of health in delivering prevention/education messages to our community, and we must indicate our awareness and education by a change in behavior.

We must renew our commitment as both public health officials and community leaders to assist in securing access to care and treatment for a community which has been historically shut out of the health care system.

Additionally, there must be a new partnership established between community-based organizations and government entities in policy and decision making, as well as service delivery.

The dramatic impact of the growing numbers of HIV-related cases in Baltimore demands that comprehensive planning, technical assistance and funding allocations be afforded to organizations which historically provided care to communities of color (e.g., community health centers, churches, social clubs, etc.) We must encourage and advocate the inclusion of these organizations.

Lastly, there must be increased representation of African-Americans in management and policy- making positions. We must be accounted for in the board rooms and on the various commissions addressing HIV/AIDS and other health issues.

Barriers to full participation in the process of determining health needs must be eliminated by African-Americans and other under-served populations through participating in all discussions, policy development and action plans about HIV issues.

When the history of this time is written, our community and leadership will be judged by how we responded to the multiple challenges presented to us by HIV/AIDS. We have the responsibility, talent and collective will; now we must join others in finding our voices.

Brenda Pridgen

Baltimore

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