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March 26, 1993 - Image 60

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-03-26

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

Israc

"An important message
for people who are
losing interest in their IRAs."

Republic Bank Southeast is adding new interest to your IRA investment. We're offering a
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receive at Republic Bank from your personal banker.
So, before April 15th, call or stop by the Republic Bank

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Member FDIC

Substantial Penalty for early withdrawal.

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Israel Finally
Wakes Up To AIDS

While far less widespread than in the United
States, recent events have made AIDS a topic of
discussion in the Jewish state.

INA FRIEDMAN ISRAEL CORRESPONDENT

I

srael, as is all too well
known, is a small country
with big problems. Until
recently, however, AIDS
was not considered one of
them — and with some justi-
fication.
With 227 AIDS patients,
150 fatalities (through the
end of 1992), and anywhere
from 2,000 to 10,000 HIV car-
riers (depending on whose es-
timates you accept), Israel
ranks twenty-first among the
European countries (which is
where Israel is grouped) re-
garding the extent of the dis-
ease.
One physician estimated
that more people die on the
country's roads in two weeks
than succumb to AIDS per
year. And for the most part,
the public at large displays
the same attitude of denial to
both phenomena.
But then a rash of inci-
dents, occurring in rapid suc-
cession, changed the mood of
complacency. First it was re-
vealed that a prostitute who
had tested positive for HIV
two years ago at a major Tel
Aviv hospital had never been
informed of her condition and
may have infected thousands
of men in the interim. Then
came the report that a tourist
from Gambia who had infect-
ed a 17-year-old girl with a
particularly virulent strain of
AIDS was still "on the
loose" (he later turned up in
Eilat and was jailed pending
deportation).
After that, word leaked out
that six others who had test-
ed positive for HIV but did
not return for their test re-
sults had not been traced by
the clinics involved. The scare
burgeoned into something of
a panic when one of the six
turned out to be a surgeon
practicing at two hospitals
and a health-fund clinic in
the center of the country.
AIDS has been hot and
persistent news ever since.
And the country's seven hos-
pital-run AIDS clinics, where
HIV tests are administered
for free, have been crowded
with concerned citizens. Yet
even before the latest scare,
there was already an upsurge
in HIV screening in Israel.

ple had been coming in each
week," reports
Dr. Shlomo Ma'ayan, di-
rector of the AIDS clinic of
Jerusalem's Hadassah Med-
ical Center, "and the number
is sure to swell now."
Dr. Ma'ayan has also not-
ed changes in the con-
stituency frequenting his
clinic. Whereas HIV screen-
ing used to be the concern of
the "high-risk groups" — ho-
mosexuals, bisexuals, and
drug addicts — over the past
year increasing nambers of
people who fit into none of
these categories have been
coming in for tests, many
arriving in couples.
"Most of them are young
people setting out on a sig-
nificant new relationship,"
says Dr. Ma'ayan, "but some
are married couples who

.2 percent of the
Israeli population is
HIV positive.

want to rule out that their
partner was infected prior to
their wedding."
On the day the tests are
done, the atmosphere in the
clinic's waiting room is an
oddly lighthearted one, born
of embarrassment mixed with
instant camaraderie. But the
geniality turns to tension and
impatience when the same
people return to receive their
results — which much be re-
ceived in person both for the
sake of privacy and to allow
the clinic to play an educa-
tional as well as purely
medical role.
The smiles of the relieved
recipients who emerge from
Dr. Ma'ayan's office reflect
the low rate of HIV carriers
in Israel, which stands at 2
per 1,000 or .2 percent.
Even the "high-risk
groups" are marked by a rel-
atively modest rate of infec-
tion: 8 percent among
homosexuals (compared to
40-60 percent in the United
States) and 4.2 percent
among drug users.
According to Dr. Ma'ayan,
these welcome statistics are

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