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Former Vice Presidential Candidate Urges AIDS Action

March 17, 1985

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The federal government’s actions to fight the incurable and often fatal disease AIDS may be ″too little, too late,″ says Geraldine Ferraro, who ran unsuccessfully for vice president last year.

A strong program to combat aquired immune deficiency syndrome is ″one of the most urgent needs a decent people can face,″ she told the annual dinner of the Municipal Elections Comittee of Los Angeles.

Ms. Ferraro, who gave up her seat in Congress to seek the vice presidency with Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale, delivered the keynote address Saturday at the $200-a-plate gala for the non-partisan, homosexual political action committee. The dinner is one of the nation’s largest annual gay fund-raising events.

About 1,100 people attended the event at the Century Plaza Hotel, said Vernie Morgan of the hotel staff. Proceeds from the dinner go toward MECLA’s campaign contribution fund.

Ms. Ferraro, who earlier Saturday endorsed Mayor Tom Bradley for re- election to a full fourth term in the city’s April 9 election, said she had only in recent years realized the amount of discrimination and problems facing homosexuals. The AIDS question is foremost among those problems, she said.

″Quite frankly, I’m pleased to see (Health and Human Services) Secretary (Margaret M.) Heckler indicating a concern about this dread disease, but I’m afraid that with people dying by the numbers that they are, her concern is too little, too late,″ she said. ″This administration must become aware that AIDS is not a gay disease, it’s a health crisis.″

Ms. Heckler recently announced government approval of two tests to detect the possibility of AIDS in blood. The tests are not considered definitive but indicate whether a person has been exposed to the AIDS virus or a related virus. The tests are designed to screen out potentially contaminated blood from donor banks.

AIDS, a mysterious virus that shuts down the body’s immune system and and leaves it unable to resist other diseases, has been fatal in about half the more than 8,000 cases reported since 1981 to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

AIDS is most likely to strike homosexuals, Haitians, abusers of injectable drugs and hemophiliacs. It is apparently spread by sexual contact, contaminated needles and blood transfusions.

Ms. Ferraro also called for elimination of discrimination against homosexuals, which she likened to discrimination against women or racial minorities.

″When we fight prejudice based on sexual orientation, we not only protect the victims, we also heal the sickness that breeds irrational hatred,″ she said.