SURGEON GENERAL: Will Emphasize AIDS Education
Thwarting the AIDS epidemic will be a major focus of U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher's agenda, which he will announce Thursday when he speaks to the National Association of Local Boards of Health. In addition to AIDS, the other public health areas Satcher plans to tackle are infant mortality, diabetes, immunizations, cardiovascular disease and cancer -- areas where there are "racial and ethnic disparities in health care." In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Satcher said, "HIV/AIDS is becoming a disease of color; in 1985, about 25% of the cases were in African Americans and Hispanics. Today, it's almost 60%, though those groups still constitute only about 25% of the population. We have to implement strong programs to close the gaps." Regarding the best messages to deliver to teens about sexual behavior, Satcher said "the abstinence message is really appropriate as a source of primary prevention." But, he added, "many teens are already sexually active," so "we also have a responsibility to talk about responsible sexual behavior." Satcher also said he was "disappointed" that the Clinton Administration decided to prohibit federal funding of needle exchange programs. But he added that the exchange programs are not enough -- "you have to have AIDS education and substance-abuse education" as well. Standing by his support of a controversial study that provided AZT to some pregnant women in developing countries but not to others, Satcher said "there are times when science is and has to be ahead of public opinion." He added that the study ultimately proved "pivotal" and "saved thousands of lives" (Christian, Chicago Tribune, 7/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.