Alec Gray


The AIDS epidemic is affecting American society in far-reaching and unexpected ways. It touches our institutions, our value systems, and our private lives. Social issues seem to change and become distorted by the epidemic 's prismlike effect. This article examines some of the major public health issues raised by the epidemic, ranging from testing to contact tracing and quarantine. It argues that while the civil rights of individuals may have to be sacrificed to stem the spread of the disease, those rights should not be abandoned unless a clear benefit to the public health would result.

Issues of discrimination in housing, employment, insurance, and medical services are considered to determine whether additional protections are needed. Other measures for contending with the epidemic, including the use of criminal statutes, are reviewed to determine whether they could realistically be expected to have a beneficial effect.

The effect of the disease on personal, private, and religious beliefs is considered, and a legal perspective is applied to the various implications of the epidemic. The conclusion is reached that while there are no easy or simple answers, common sense must be the basis for any workable approach.



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