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Letters to the editor

March 21, 2005

HIV victims need compassion, tattoo


To the editor:

According to reports, 238 Washington County residents have been diagnosed with HIV infection. This threefold increase in the county since 1997 requires a compassionate and serious response to this epidemic.

The most noted solutions among the professionals include education regarding how to have "safe sex," and yearly testing for everyone, whether or not they are in a high-risk group.

These solutions do not go to the root of the problem. They also leave a hollow promise that if these solutions were implemented, the HIV infection rate would decline.

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In actuality, teaching children how to have sex in a safer way actually increases sexual activity and, consequently, the rate of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. It encourages children to engage in the risky behaviors that subject them to diseases rather than affirming the one and only solution that truly works - abstinence.

The article by Tara Reilly presents one of the sad failures of the "education" solution when talking about the increase in HIV rates among women, stating, "Unfortunately for them, they've just gotten with the wrong partner." As revealed by a Health and Human Services Department study, condoms do not prevent the spread of HIV, even when used properly, every time.

Testing seems like a sensible solution to help control the spread of HIV, but one may ask, "What difference will that make?" Reilly's article went on to state that "there have been cases in which people knew they were infected and continued to engage in risky behavior."

So how does testing stop that, or warn their partners of the potentially deadly encounter they are about to have? Doesn't everyone deserve to be protected from the start, not just after-the-fact, with testing?

It is time to take the threat of HIV seriously. A compassionate and serious solution must preserve the dignity of those infected while truly helping to prevent the spread of the disease in an effective way.

One such solution is a tattoo for those who are infected. This mark could be inconspicuously placed, perhaps in a spot covered by a bathing suit, warning only those who might engage in intimate encounters with the infected person.

An effective way to enforce the consistency of the tattoo would be to provide medicine to the infected individual only after they have received the HIV tattoo.

The tattoo in no way is a solution on its own. The real solution is for sex to be esteemed more highly, so that it is only practiced within marriage. Abstinence-only education sends a clear signal to students about what is expected, without mixing messages.

The HIV tattoo would, however, help to prevent the spread of infection by people who know that they are infected, but who choose not to curb their behavior, putting their partners at risk. It would be a 100 percent unmistakable sign allowing all parties involved to make an informed decision.

These practical solutions treat this epidemic with the seriousness it deserves, while being compassionate to those infected, and to those who are at risk of unknowingly becoming infected one day.

Neil Parrott
Hagerstown




Go with performance


To the editor:

I'm getting pretty nervous over the amount of money the Republican slate of candidates for Hagerstown office is spending on this campaign. Suddenly, I have the impression I'm living in Trumpville.

Penny Nigh, Kristin Aleshire and Lew Metzner have chosen to run on their records, which of course means that during their tenure they will only be responsible to the citizenry at large, rather than to special financial interests.

Conversely, the biggest chunks of the slate's money, according to official filings, derives from developers who aren't even located in Hagerstown, which strongly suggests that they are attempting to buy an election for a specific group that will permit the developers to fully exploit a city that offers an ever-increasing potential for rapid growth.

Why aren't we more discriminating about where the support for local candidates originates?

The slate says the current council has spent too much money resisting the efforts of Washington County Hospital to move to the Robinwood site. Could it have been handled differently? Maybe so. But a couple of things are clear.

First, I worry about any candidates who suggests that the hospital should move to Robinwood simply because "that's the recommendation of the hospital board." That suggests there should be no oversight of business interests at all - obviously an irresponsible approach.

Second, I am extremely concerned by a mayoral candidate who is happy to have the hospital group renege on a firm, clear, written commitment to not put an inpatient care unit at the Robinwood site simply on the grounds that "things change."

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