Aids Policy Shames Dupont

Posted: July 08, 1988

They ought to rename the A.I. duPont Institute in Wilmington. You may have read about the place. It's the 97-bed pediatric hospital that's going to turn away youngsters who test positive for AIDS. They ought to rename it: the A.I. duPont Institute for Kids Who Aren't Too Sick.

That's the message the hospital's overseers at the Nemours Foundation in Jacksonville, Fla., inscribed over its portals with a no-kids-with-AIDS policy that began July 1. It's a first for a hospital in this country. It should be the last.

Think of it this way: It's like a charity that, having welcomed the needy, now bans the very neediest. The hospital should know better. Instead it is acting like a medical no-nothing. A bigot. Like one of those fearful towns going berserk over a schoolchild with AIDS.

It has turned off its own staff. Workers who test positive for AIDS aren't immune to the new regime. They'll face two choices: jobs away from patients or dismissal.

If there were evidence that kids with AIDS antibodies put other kids at risk, the policy would make sense. If staffers might spread it, likewise. But

from the American Medical Association on down, the word is that - while hospitals should upgrade precautions against infection - AIDS isn't spread by casual contact. That's what 11 doctors from Philadelphia think, too. They've been moon-lighting at the institute. But no more.

They quit July 1 to protest the AIDS policy. One nurse interviewed by Inquirer correspondent Mack Reed said the doctors - young residents - were ''shaming their peers" who continue to work under the AIDS exclusion policy. Good for the young residents.

If A.I. duPont Institute would like to stop the bad publicity, of course, there's a quick cure. It ought to show some decency and medical good sense. It ought to ditch the test-positive-and-you're-outta-here policy. It would get its good name back in no time.

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