As more Americans contract Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), and analysts predict skyrocketing health-care costs, the debate over the deadly disease is escalating. In the past few months, both the federal government and private-sector groups have launched initiatives to address the problem.

The National Education Association has thrown its support behind teaching abstinence as one way students can avoid contracting the disease. At the same time, a new private-sector group known as Americans for a Sound AIDS Policy is working to call attention to concerns it feels are being overlooked. And last month, President Reagan’s commission on AIDS felt the sting of criticism from gay-rights groups that fault government efforts to combat the disease, which is most prevalent among homosexuals and intravenous drug users.

Federal Efforts

The presidential commission was appointed to investigate the spread of AIDS, advise federal officials of the “medical, legal, ethical, social, and economic impact” of the disease, and recommend measures to “protect the public from contracting [AIDS], assist in finding a cure, … and care for those who already have the disease.”

From the start, the 13-member panel has been embroiled in controversy. Some critics have complained that the panel includes only one homosexual member (geneticist Frank Lilly) and no AIDS victims. Others charge specific commission members with being biased or ill informed. And less than a week after the panel’s first meeting, executive director Linda Sheaffer departed abruptly from the commission, citing “internal disagreement.”

During a hearing in Washington, D.C., the panel heard from government officials, medical researchers, ...

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