Doctors debate AIDS testing

June 26,

Gay men should use a blood test for the AIDS virus when the test becomes available, then limit their sexual partners accordingly, says Dr. Frank Rhame, head of infection control at University Hospital.
Rhame and Dr. John Weiser will debate the controversial proposal at 7 p.m. tonight in Theatre 1900 of the Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Ave. The debate is sponsored by the Minnesota AIDS Project.
Rhame, a University assistant professor of medicine, will argue in favor of the resolution that “gay and bisexual men should use testing for antibodies to HTLV-III (human T-lymphotropic virus type III) for voluntary grouping before sexual intimacy.” Weiser, a family physician and Minnesota AIDS Project board member, will argue against the resolution.
AIDS, which mysteriously undermines the body’s ability to fight disease, was discovered in 1981. Health officials now have diagnosed 11,000 cases nationwide, including 25 in Minnesota. Seventy-three percent of the victims are gay or bisexual men.
Two percent of AIDS victims apparently were infected with the virus through blood transfusions, and the HTLV-III antibody screen test now is used to screen donated blood.
The test, however, sometimes falsely shows the presence of antibody to HTLV-III, experts say. In addition, critics of Rhame’s proposal contend, screening gay men could lead to increased discrimination against them by insurance companies.