Three prominent infectious disease experts, at a symposium last night in the Science Center, strongly criticized the lack of social concern about AIDS, warning the disease will soon spread to heterosexuals.
"Given enough time, AIDS will spread to the heterosexual population," said Dr. Marshall Forstein, associate director of out patient psychiatry at Cambridge Hospital. "Virus causes AIDS, not sexual identity," he told the 250 people who came to the forum sponsored by the Student Health Advisory Council.
Forstein said the $218 million spent on AIDS research this year is relatively low, considering that it is only one-tenth the cost of a Trident submarine. He said $5 billion will be spent to treat victims of AIDS this year, because of the lack of proper less expensive facilities.
Most AIDS research searches for a vaccine for the disease but ignores the need to discover the proper way to treat the victims, said Allan Brandt, an assistant professor at the Harvard Medical School.
AIDS is rapidly turning into an epidemic, said Dr. David Ho, a member of the infectious disease unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. Although Ho said only 15,000 people have been diagnosed as having the disease this year, he estimated that for every AIDS victim, another ten have Aids Related Complex (ARC).
Of the people who have ARC, which means they have the AIDS virus but not the symptons, Ho predicted 25 percent will show symptoms of AIDS in three years.
All three panelists stressed that AIDS is not just a disease affecting the gay community. Recently, insurance companies have begun to deny life insurance to college age men, since they are in the highest risk group for AIDS, Forstein said.
Entire zip codes have been redlined by these companies because of the increased probability in these areas of the occurrence of AIDS, he added.