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December 04, 1987 - Image 27

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-12-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

The Situation In Israel

The great AIDS panic that has swept
through most of the world has not yet
reached Israel. But it is probably on the
way.
So far, 40 cases of AIDS have been
diagnosed in Israel and 33 of these vic-
tims have died. A further 239 people
have been diagnosed as carriers of
AIDS antibodies.
The Israel Health Ministry recently
set up a committee to prevent the
spread of AIDS. Among the sugges-
tions so far are that volunteers from
abroad coming to work on kibbutzim
should be screened for AIDS, as should
army conscripts and pregnant women.
In swinging 1bl Aviv, where AIDS
consciousness is higher than other parts
of the country, public health officials
have opened an information hotline and
are now preparing literature and lectures
on the subject for local schools.
Haviva Avi-Guy, who holds the city
council's public health portfolio, recently
suggested that condom dispensers be
installed in the restrooms of all cafes
and other entertainment spots in the ci-
ty (condom sales in. Israel doubled from
400,000 packages in 1985 to 800,000 last

year, and are expected to double again
in 1987).
Avi-Guy's suggestion, however, has so
far been stymied by fierce opposition
from three religious council members,
who consider that such a move would
represent an endorsement of pre-marital
sex and immorality. They also point to
the continued rabbinical ban on the use
of condoms.
The council is meanwhile working on
a plan to provide regular AIDS screen-
ing for Tel Aviv's 400 known male and
female prostitutes.
According to a 1986 survey of 70 pro-
stitutes who "work" the city's 1bl
Baruch beach area, 5 per cent of the
women and 20 per cent of the men were
found to be AIDS carriers—statistics
similar to those found in Los Angeles
and San Francisco.
Dr. Donald Silverberg, head of 1bl
Aviv's Public Health Department, says
only a small percentage of AIDS vic-
tims in Israel are known to have become
infected as a result of drug use.
But this figure, he fears, will grow,
creating a major problem,. if AIDS-
infected addicts turn to prostitution to

cholesterol in order to be infective. The
AIDS (or HIV) virus is one of them.
"Once we realized that," says Professor
Shinitsky, "we decided to concentrate all
our efforts on developing a treatment that
would reduce the cell cholesterol level in
AIDS patients."
The initial results were promising and,
inevitably, a world frantic for a means of
dealing with a threatened AIDS epidemic
seized on the "Israeli egg yolk treatment."
The stampede of patients began soon after.
But Professor Shinitsky and his medical
colleagues are determined that they will
not be stampeded. They cannot begin to
help everyone seeking their treatment for
the simple reason that supplies of
AL-721—which are produced at the Weiz-
mann Institute—are limited, and Israeli
patients come first.
Moreover, supplies will remain limited
until the treatment has been thoroughly
tested and evaluated. The Weizmann In-
stitute has sold exclusive rights to pro-
duce, develop and market AL-721 to a Los
Angeles-based company, the Ethigen Cor-
poration (until recently known as Praxis
Pharmaceuticals).
The company has obtained FDA ap-
proval for the use of AL-721 on an ex-
perimental basis and is planning a
large-scale, controlled study on AIDS vic-

tims in the United States and Israel.
If the results are as good—and early
tests indicate that they will be—AL-721
will be marketed commercially early next
year.
According to Professor Shinitsky—who
has studied at the University of Illinois in
Urbana, the National Institute of Health
in Bethesda, Maryland, and the Duke Uni-
versity Medical Center—the international
medical fraternity has so far shown only
cautious interest in the treatment.
"They don't relate to something so un-
sophisticated and simple," he says wryly.
"They prefer something more abstract,
more esoteric, more elusive than an inex-
pensive substance extracted from egg
yolks."
Dr. Skorknick, however, believes that
medical interest in AL-721 will quicken
once the Israeli research data is published
and the American trials are completed.
In the meantime, the Israeli doctors
struggle to treat as many patients as possi-
ble within the limits of their restricted sup-
plies and budgets.
Dr. Skorknick, 47, frets about the fact
that for reasons of scarcity, he is able to
treat only patients in advanced stages of
the disease.
He is anxious to test AL-721 on victims
in the early stages of the disease and,

support their drug habit.
A proposed AIDS clinic, however, has
raised hackles all over the city. One fro-
posed site was mysteriously burned
down and neighborhood residents have
given loud and clear expression to their
opposition.
Israel's religious community has also
shown a growing concern about the
possible spread of AIDS among the
observant.
Rabbis from the organization Medi-
cine According to Halacha have recent-
ly discussed the problem and noted that
"AIDS carriers cannot have sexual rela-
tions, which are intended for healthy
people only."
They are particularly concerned that
newly observant Jews.-1` returning from
a world in which there is excessive
lust'"—may bring the virus into their
new communities.
Recently, representatives of the
organization were dispatched to the
United States to determine whether
there is a disinfecting agent that can be
put into the mikve (ritual bath) to pre-.
vent the spread of the disease through
this medium. ❑

perhaps even more important, on people
who are carriers of the AIDS virus but
whose health has not yet been impaired by
i t.
Kaplan Hospital and the Rokach-
Hadassah Medical Center may not, accord-
ing to guidelines laid down by Israel's
Health Ministry, charge patients a cent for
treatment because AL-721 is still
experimental.
While some patients do make a donation
to the AL-721 research program, others, ac-
cording to Professor Shinitsky "forget even
to say thank you."
So far, Professor Shinitsky has de-
veloped AL-721 for the ludicrously low
sum of $10,000—all from his modest de-
partmental budget—and he admits to a
twinge of envy when he reads about
Elizabeth Taylor and her showbiz super-
star friends raising millions of dollars for
the fight against AIDS.
But he plods on in the hope that his
AL-721 "baby" might one day prove to be
a vital element in the race to head off an
AIDS epidemic. And he still hopes to
return to his research, now shelved, into ag-
ing and that other scourge of modern man,
drug addiction.
One way or another, Meir Shinitsky is
determined to put the much-maligned egg
yolk back on the map.



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