AIDS Article Misinformed and Irresponsible


As I prepare to leave Harvard after 11 years, I was saddened to see that some things never change. I am referring to the shoddy quality of reporting prevalent in The Crimson. Stephen E. Frank's Article, "HDS Food Safety is Questioned: Cook Died of AIDS," [May 19] is not only execrable reporting it is morally irresponsible. Mr. Frank states that "...Burke may have presented a health threat to thousands of students who ate the food he prepared" because he had AIDS.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The risk of HIV transmission from a dining hall worker to a student through the food the student eats is over one trillion times less than the chance of being struck by lightning, hit by a meteor or dying of frostbite in the summer. Of the estimated 10 million. HIV Positive people worldwide, not a single one was infected with HIV by ingesting contaminated food. In fact, it is not even believed to be theoretically; possible.

HIV, a virus which causes AIDS, is primarily transmitted though vaginal or anal intercourse without a condom or through sharing intravenous needles with an infected person. It may also be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy or labor, and possibly through breast feeding. The remaining routes of transmission (blood transfusion, oral sex, organ transplant, etc.) present only extremely minor risks (on the order of one in hundreds of thousands). There is an insufficient amount of the virus in saliva and even an "open" blister to present a danger of transmission. Compared to other viruses, HIV survives only a very short time outside the body. Most importantly, countless medical studies have conclusively demonstrated that HIV may not be casually transmitted through hugging, kissing, using the same bathroom as an infected person sharing dishes, or eating food prepared by someone who is HIV positive.

The AIDS pandemic is cause for serious concern. Responsible reporters will write about the disease in an informed way; Mr. Frank has demonstrated that he is not amongst their ranks. The current grievances of dining hall employees about their working conditions notwithstanding, the gross inaccuracies and misleading statements in this article demand that you print a retraction. Gregory D. Crowe '86