East needs to recognise dangers

SITTING next to a stack of newspapers in a spotlessly clean waiting room of a dentist, I was unnerved by a headline: ''AIDS virus dentist, Mike Sinclair, tell his patients: 'I am sorry for any distress that has been caused'.'' The image of a sickly looking dentist with grisly hands waving a bloody air turbine drill in my face flashed across my mind. The pain in my wisdom tooth intensified.

''Click'' - the sudden opening of the door woke me up from my wild imagination. It was the nurse coming out from the dentist's operation room. Instinctively, I dashed out of the dentist's office and down the long flight of stairs.

In the evening, my toothache grew all the more painful. I decided to escape into my favourite pastime - reading.

In a recent issue of Youth , I read an article entitled ''Charity is Dying''. It reported that in a ''Live AIDS concert held in 1985, George Michael, Richard Marx, Sinead O'Connor and the crowd managed to raise $35 million for AIDS victims.'' However, donations are now dwindling due to recession in the US. In Asia, donations are almost negligible compared with the West. Perhaps, many of us in the East are still rather ignorant of AIDS or have this ''it can't happen to me attitude''.

I believe governments clearly have the responsibility to arouse public awareness of this global issue.

In the US, former President Ronald Reagan took the initiative of visiting schools to warn children about AIDS and urged them to abstain from sex as the best prevention.


In Hongkong and Japan, the governments have launched all-out campaigns against AIDS and are urging the use of condoms for safer sex. Schools also have the moral obligation to instil in teenagers a sense of compassion for AIDS victims.

The mass media can be used to carry anti-AIDS publicity and to root out prejudices against HIV carriers and patients. Those who have the financial power can organise fund-raising activities especially in affluent societies like Japan and Hongkong.

I trust that such forms of leadership do exert some influence in arousing our concern for AIDS and AIDS victims.

Professionals in the medical sector and funeral homes should remember their work ethics. To reduce the risks of being infected, doctors and nurses must take precautions like using gloves and sterilising their tools properly.


These measures would protect medical workers and other patients. Patients have the right to be informed especially in cases of infection.

There have been complaints in Hongkong and overseas that funeral parlour staff have refused to handle the dead bodies of AIDS patients.


Such attitude must partly be blamed on a medical report presented at Chicago's Micro-Organism Convention last year in which it was stated that HIV remained active for between 17 and 25 hours after a victim is certified dead.

This sacred task of rooting out the fear rests with the medical researchers who have to find out more about this all-consuming affliction and to discover vaccines.

In Hongkong, the medical profession is gathering good samples from HIV carriers. In the US and Europe, more vigorous research is being been carried out in the hope of producing a cure.


What is the role of HIV carriers? Should they hide in the dark and live the rest of their lives in fear, shame and self-loathing? These people must try to come to terms with themselves.

They clearly have the responsibility to be careful about their sexual activities with the view of not transmitting HIV to other innocent people. There should also be a display of more positive attitude, excellent examples are AIDS ambassadors like basketball player ''Magic'' Johnson and Hongkong dentist Mike Sinclair.

By going public to become AIDS counsellors, HIV carriers can provide mutual support for each other. Only when AIDS victims strive to root out prejudice against them can they hope to sow the seed of compassion in the public.


Although the present state of medical knowledge still leaves the world with the grim truth that AIDS is a problem for which there is no immediate solution, education can help to keep it under control and liberate us from prejudice.