Addressing the AIDS Threat
Do you plan to shut down bathhouses or take other steps to change the way public facilities are operated in order to control the disease?
I can't answer that question because the authority to close bathhouses has just been conferred on me as surgeon general.
We would prefer to see the states, rather than the federal government, take whatever action is needed. But I can conceive of certain evidence coming to the fore that might indicate it makes good sense to close bathhouses. It would be much more difficult for many people to pursue promiscuous homosexual activity if such meeting places were closed.
As surgeon general, will you address the moral aspects of AIDS and how it is transmitted?
What I have said about containing AIDS is a public health statement. But it is interpreted by people who don't like prohibition of a permissive sexual lifestyle as a moral statement.
Some might say you are not moralizing enough.
As a public health official, I'm not entitled to a moral opinion in a situation like this. But the public health opinion that I give happens to coincide with a moral position of a very large segment of the country.
Because the disease is closely related to behavior Christians consider sinful, will ministering to AIDS victims present a particular challenge to churches?
Many will have difficulty separating what they consider sinful behavior from the consequences of that behavior. It is akin to the way the churches very slowly made an about-face in their attitude toward unmarried, pregnant women. Before the 1970s, churches took a fairly harsh attitude toward unmarried women who got pregnant. There was not much love and compassion extended to them to see them through delivery. As a result of this attitude, one of the pillars of the proabortion movement was born.
In the last decade, however, churches have taken the lead in a compassionate understanding of the plight of a woman who is pregnant and would rather not be—especially those who are not married. The churches' response has been to provide alternatives to abortion. Now there are more crisis pregnancy centers in the country than there are abortion clinics. Unfortunately, we don't have a similar opportunity with AIDS, because it is a deadly disease with 100 percent mortality.