The University may consider a plan in the near future to provide its police officers with protective devices such as gloves to be used in situations where there is the possibility of the spread of AIDS, Harvard's chief doctor said yesterday.
Acting Director of University Health Services (UHS) Dr. Sholem Postel said that the University may consider a plan to provide gloves and other protective items to the police.
UHS, which determines Harvard police protection policies, currently does not consider protective garments necessary. "We don't have plastic gloves or anything else," said DeputyChief of Harvard Police Jack W. Morse. "The onlygloves we have are special white gloves forCommencement."
But Postel said yesterday that there aresituations where gloves might be necessary. "Ifthe presumption is--in the course of making anarrest their might be violence which would lead tothe letting of blood--then gloves would be a valididea," Postel said.
"I think it is a useless thing to do as aroutine, but in certain instances it may benecessary," Postel said.
Postel said protective items should not beprovided to the police if the gloves are used outof uniformed fears. If officers requestedprotective devices because they feared AIDS can becontracted from contact with another persons skin,"then it is bad, and I would say no to the requestof having gloves," Postel said.
AIDS is an disease which attacks the body'simmune system and is often fatal. It spreadsthrough the exchange of bodily fluids.Increasingly police forces in large cities havebegun to use protective devices when dealing withindividuals, such as the homeless and homosexuals,considered to be at high risk of having thedisease.
The Boston and Cambridge Police Departmentsbegan two year ago to provide protective garmentssuch as gloves, masks and gowns that officers canwear while interacting with individuals theyconsider at risk of having AIDS, officials said.
A 1985 Boston Police Department order statesthat officers have the option of wearing thesegarments when handling persons are under thesuspicion or who are known to have infectiousdiseases, such as hepatitus B, meningitus or AIDS,said Detective John F. Gillestie, of the Bostonpolice department.
This order was implemented to try to "controlthe fears and misunderstandings about AIDS whichwas a major concern among arresting officers,"Gillestie said. "And they are using the specialequipment with an increased frequency," he said.
The detective said that prior to the new policyindividual officers would often purchase their owngloves out of their own money as a safety measure,and most of the police force is very satisfiedwith having disposable garments available at thestation.
A Cambridge booking officer said most officersare very conscious about the risks that theyexpose themselves to while arresting peopleconsidered high risk. "The gloves are a necessitywhen you see some of the people who come inhere--under the circumstances it is just a matterof common sense," the officer said.
Cambridge Commissioner of Health and HospitalsDr. Melvin Chalfen said prudent measures mu shouldbe taken against contagious diseases.
"It is a question of policy that has been builtupon evidence--AIDS can only be transmitted incertain ways, and blood is one means," Chalfensaid. "There are proper procedures for handlingthese cases and gloves are one of them," he added