Cultural Revolutions

AIDS Capital of the Nation

San Francisco, the AIDS capital of the nation, is presumably a city that should be open to a variety of views on how to combat the virus. As the experience of Dr. Lorraine Day of San Francisco General Hospital suggests, the greater the concentration of homosexuals and AIDS carriers in an area, the narrower the limits of the debate.

Until February 1 of this year, Dr. Day was the chief of orthopedic surgery at San Francisco General. She describes orthopedics, or skeletal surgery, as a kind of carpentry of the body. She sometimes uses high-speed drills and saws to rebuild patients who have been mangled in accidents or blasted by gunfire. Orthopedists frequently nick themselves with their tools or are struck with bone splinters while doing a job that is literally drenched with blood. "I work up to my armpits in blood," says Dr. Day; "I've been doing it for 15 years."

In the early 80's, when it was learned that AIDS is transmitted by blood. Dr. Day started asking the specialists in infectious diseases what chance there was of getting the virus from a cut or from a bloody bone splinter. She was assured that there was no chance at all. But on October 7, 1987—a date she will never forget—she learned that a nurse at the hospital had gotten AIDS by accidentally sticking herself with a contaminated needle. "My whole life passed before me," says Dr. Day, who is angry about the false...

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