SOCIAL ISSUES: AIDS

More than 1 million United States residents are believed to be infected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can lead to AIDS. Public-health authorities note that it has spread beyond the groups thought to be at highest risk - homosexuals and intravenous-drug users. As a result, the associated social, economic, and ethical problems have multiplied. AIDS was a high enough priority with both political parties to win time for people diagnosed with AIDS to speak at both national conventions. The federal government spends more for research on AIDS - unknown before 1982 - than for research on any other disease except cancer. This growth in spending occurred under GOP administrations in the 1980s. But President Bush has been criticized for an inadequate government response to the epidemic. BUSH

He has increased by 170 percent - to $4.3 billion - funding for research into medical treatment of AIDS. And he has slashed red tape involved in getting potential new treatments onto the market.

But he is criticized for not going far enough: particularly for not boosting funding enough and for promoting AIDS-education programs that heavily stress abstention from sex more than direct discussions about sex.

The criticism was most publicly illustrated in the September resignation of basketball superstar Earvin "Magic" Johnson from the bipartisan National Commission on AIDS. Johnson, who was appointed to the commission by Bush after the ballplayer tested HIV- positive, said the Bush administration had "utterly ignored" the commission's recommendations.

Bush signed legislation that would provide legal protection to HIV-infected Americans against discrimination in public employment. He says all records pertaining to the AIDS virus should be kept confidential.

But his administration has continued to ban foreign nationals who are diagnosed as infected from entering the US. CLINTON

Would create an AIDS- policy director to lead his administration's fight against the disease.

He says he would forbid health-insurance companies from denying coverage to HIV-infected applicants.

He would "recommend" lifting the ban on travel and immigration to the US by foreign nationals testing positive for HIV and would oppose HIV-testing for employment.

As part of his broader national health-care proposals, he would extend insurance coverage to all HIV-infected Americans.

He proposes increasing funding - but with no specific totals - for research on AIDS prevention and treatment.

His prevention plans call for extensive AIDS education in schools, which would include some controversial sex education. PEROT

Offers few specifics. But what he says about the subject leans heavily on American know-how to find a cure: "Our medical research facilities are uniquely positioned to find the cure for AIDS. We must intensify our effort to rid ourselves of this worldwide plague. We must expedite the [Food and Drug Administration] process of clearing promising experimental drugs to combat AIDS."

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