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February 15, 1989 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-02-15

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, February 15, 1989 - Page 5






Ten years ago, few people had even
heard of the AIDS virus. Today, discussion
about AIDS is so common that newspapers
seldom bother to write out Acquired Im-
mune Deficiency Syndrome.
When the disease started receiving na-
tional attention five years ago, both Uni-
versity Health Services (UHS) and the
University Hospital began programs tar-
geted at furthering understanding and
alleviating fears about AIDS.
UHS began AIDS education programs in
1985, around the same time as the rest of
the nation, said Polly Paulson, AIDS Edu-
cation Coordinator at UHS.
UHS publishes pamphlets about the
risks and dangers of the AIDS virus. "We
go through 10,000 of our AIDS pamphlets
per year. People read the information -
it's pretty simple, but it's pretty effective,
too," Paulson said.

In addition, UHS sponsors Safer Sex
Peer Education Programs which provide
University students with information about
all sexually transmitted diseases, including
UHS also runs an Anonymous AIDS
(HIV) Antibody Counseling and Testing
Program. Anyone who receives this test is
required to undergo anonymous pre- and
post-test counseling on AIDS prevention
Almost 1,000 people have been through
the testing program since it began almost
two years ago, and about 10 have tested
positive for the AIDS antibody, Paulson
said. She said all those who have tested
positive so far have been bisexual or gay
men, but added, "that could change in the
Students who feel they may be at risk
for the AIDS virus can go to UHS for a
free AIDS antibody test, said UHS Director

Ceasar Briefer. Forj
without a pre-paid

non-students or faculty
health plan, the fee is

Despite the recent push for more AIDS
research, Briefer said it is important not to
spend too much time researching AIDS.
"AIDS is a tremendous problem, obvi-
ously, because it is a lethal disease," he
said. "But it has not turned out to be as
much of a problem in the non-drug using
heterosexual population than once was
He explained that research shows the
disease is moving away from the gay male
population, and is now becoming more
prevalent among IV drug users.
"The gay population has really dramati-
cally changed their behavior and AIDS is
really no longer concentrated in the gay
community," Briefer said. "The most rapid
growth of new cases is occurring in inner
city, hardcore-type IV users."

While UHS keeps statistics on the per-
centage and demographics of people who
test positive for the AIDS virus, the Uni-
versity Hospital has no method of tabulat-
ing the number of AIDS victims who have
been treated at the Hospital.
"We're trying to put together an AIDS
database, but we're running into confiden-
tiality problems," said Robert Fekety, di-
rector of University Hospital's AIDS Task
However, Fekety pointed out that the
vast majority of the Hospital's AIDS pa-
tients do not come from the University
community. "They are mostly male homo-
sexuals, some blood transfusion patients,
and a very few are drug related," he said.
Fekety said AIDS has not been as wide-
scale a problem in Michigan as it has been
in other states. He said only 10 percent of
Michigan's AIDS patients are treated at
University Hospital.

"Most of the cases of AIDS we see in
Michigan are people who were infected
years ago."
Fekety said that AIDS education at Uni-
versity Hospital began more than four years
ago. Much of the education is geared toward
hospital employees and combatting their
fears about dealing with AIDS patients, he
"There is a lot of homophobia here.
Anyone who looks like they might be gay
- people might be afraid to take care of
them," he said. However, Fekety said the
Hospital's education programs have suc-
cessfully combated this potential problem;
he said fear of AIDS patients "is not a
problem" at the Hospital.
"I think that the U of M people are very
well educated. They're concerned and ratio-
nal about this and high risk groups are do-
ing things to prevent the spread," Fekety

.'U' research contributes to
growing AIDS knowledge

Gathering information about
AIDS is like building a wall from
pebbles, says Jill Joseph, assistant
professor of epidemiology in the
School of Public Health. Every re-
searcher contributes a pebble, and if
no one contributes a pebble, there
will be no wall.
The University's contribution to
the wall of AIDS research has ex-
panded since the disease was first di-
agnosed in September 1981.
More than 100 people in the
schools of Public Health, Medicine,
Pharmacy and Dentistry are involved
in AIDS-related research.
The increase in AIDS research at
the University has been rapid, said
Richard Harrison, director of the East
Central Region AIDS Education and
Training Center, "especially for a
disease that was only identified a few
years ago."
Many aspects of AIDS are stud-
ied, but most of the research has
nothing to do with working with the
AIDS virus or for finding a cure for
the disease.
Instead, researchers study behav-
ioral and social aspects of AIDS and
other biological factors which can
complicate the disease.
One reason the University does
less research on a cure for the disease
is that the University's facilities are
not suited to handle the AIDS virus.
Studying viruses requires spe-
cially designed bio-containment lab-
oratories, said Dentistry Prof. John
Drach, who is developing drugs to
combat AIDS.
The University will build three
bio-containment laboratories in the
Continued from Page 1
"The Health Services kept saying
we have so much stuff out there,
don't you see it? To be honest... I've
only seen [them] pass out
prophylactics on the Diag," said
Mark Samuels, founder of Michigan
Cares, which is trying to educate the
University's undergraduate commu-
nity about AIDS issues.
Samuels worked in conjunction
with University Health Services to
form Michigan Cares.
UHS sponsors peer educator
groups, such as Ithe Safer Sex Peer

next year with a $731,590 National
Institute of Health grant. Until the
labs are completed, no AIDS virus
research can be conducted on cam-
However, many University re-
searchers are concerned with the be-
havioral and social aspects of AIDS.
"AIDS is as much of a behavioral
problem as it is a medical problem,"
said David Ostrow, director of the
University's recently established
AIDS Biobehavioral Research Cen-
Studies have shown that behav-
ioral changes can have a definite im-
pact on the spread of the AIDS epi-
demic, Joseph said.
The rate HIV infection is spread-
ing among the gay male population
has declined due to the group's in-
creasing use of safe sex. However,
the problem remains prevalent
among IV drug users and their sexual
partners who have not adopted safe
sex practices, said Public Health
Prof. Toby Citrin.
Researchers in the School of
Public Health and the Biobehavioral
Research Center want to know what
makes people change their behavior
and how those changes can be facili-
Any type of behavior change is
difficult, Joseph said. But behavioral
changes made by people in high-risk
groups to prevent AIDS are "changes
that have to be made for the rest of
their lives," Joseph said.
In addition, several projects in the
Medical School focus on physical or
biological problems which can
complicate AIDS.
University research is directly
Educator Program. The program
provides students with information
about the prevention of sexually
transmitted diseases, including
AIDS, and discusses safer sex prac-
tices, said Polly Paulson, AIDS
education coordinator at UHS.
Teams of undergraduate and grad-
uate peer educators go to dormito-
ries, off-campus student housing and
academic classrooms to give their
"We give the most recent infor-
mation about AIDS and the statis-
tics, and we really respond to stu-
dents' questions," said Suzanne De-
Palma, program co-coordinator and
Rackham graduate student.

proportional to the funding it can
garner from federal sources. In the
last two years a "big push" began at
the federal level to supply AIDS
money and to get researchers to ap-
ply for grants, Harrison said.
The University does not keep
track of the amount of money from
federal sources allocated specifically
for AIDS.
"There is more money being
spent here now than previously,"
said James Randolph, project repre-
sentative for the University's Divi-
sion of Research Development and
Administration (DRDA).
The National Institute of Health
reports that between 1982 - when
the institute first allocated money for
AIDS research - and 1988, the
money allocated for AIDS research
has increased by millions of dollars.
"All agencies have increased
funding for AIDS, but that doesn't
mean they give you everything you
ask for," Ostrow said.
One researcher anonymously as-
serted, however, that declaring that a
project would be related to AIDS
made it much more fundable.
The University has been criticized
by members of Lesbian and Gay
Rights Organizing Committee for
not making information about its
AIDS research more accessible.
Some researchers, however, have
tried to make their research more
public. The University Medical
Center has begun to compile a de-
scriptive list of its AIDS research,
and the Biobehavioral Research
Center has its own public policy
core to supply research results to
policy makers.

Piayin' around
Avani Khanna (on top) and Chris Becker,
warm Valentine's Day outside the Rackham

both seniors at Ann Arbor Community

But there is still no University-
wide effort to make University AIDS
research results public.
Compiling a list of AIDS related
research projects is difficult, said
DRDA's Dennis Cebulski, because
many research projects related to
AIDS do not use the word AIDS in
their title, and therefore, a computer
database search will not show the
project on the list.
For instance, a $4 million, five-
year grant for the synthesis of AIDS
fighting compounds was not listed
on such a database search list.
The list did show 10 projects re-
ceiving collectively over $2 million
in AIDS research grants. However,
four of those grants expired in 1988.

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