Ross Olson's Web Site

Social Issues: Letters

Kathy Anlauf
Health Coordinator
Minneapolis Public Schools

Dear Kathy,

I want to try to briefly make a few points clear.

It is possible to give advice to kids in a purely scientific and rational way about high and low risk behavior. Enclosed is a copy of the Minnesota Department of Health Newsletter and a copy of the "Families InTouch" from the Illinois Department of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. It is designed for families to use, obviously, but could be used for classrooms. More importantly, it models the general approach I have been trying to recommend even though I could not agree with everything that is included.

Please look over the Newsletter and the highlights marked. What is high risk behavior? The facts are clear. For men it is homosexual activity and IV drug use. For women it is IV drug use and sexual activity with high risk men, meaning bisexual or IV drug using men. For children it is the completely passive fact of being born to an infected mother.

I suggest that these facts should not be withheld from students who are supposed to be getting adequate information on AIDS transmission. As you mentioned on the phone, Kathy, when the teacher is being cautioned to be "pro social", that should not be made to mean that the facts must be withheld.

Regarding AIDS being "no one's fault", I think the Illinois series handles this problem in a far better way in book two, pages 35 - 37. There they acknowledge that people may make unhealthy choices but we can still love them.

I will surprise you by agreeing that care must be taken to avoid discriminatory conclusions based on partial understanding. A superficial understanding on the data may note that Blacks and Hispanics are high risk groups and simply state it that way. Yet this is not whole story. The significant fact is that these two groups, recognizable by characteristics over which they have no control, are at risk for AIDS only because of certain behaviors. Why those groups are more likely to engage in the high risk behaviors is not crucial to my point here. But for someone to say, "You might have AIDS because you are black," is clearly wrong and damaging. To say, however, to a person, of any race, "You might have AIDS because you use IV drugs," is a logical and fair statement. It "discriminates" in the best sense of the word in that it separates truth from error.

In conclusion, it is possible to promote the safest sex in the following sot of statement. If a person waits to have sex until they have chosen a person with whom they will spend their entire life, and if neither of them have sex with anyone else or use IV drugs and have sexual activity with only that one person for their entire life, their risk of AIDS is almost zero.

This is the only scenario deserving of the title, "Safe Sex". Or alternatively, a person may choose to not have sexual activity with any other person.

These two possibilities can be clearly supported scientifically and stated this way do not step on any special interest group's toes. They set the gold standard against which all other choices represent a step down. And that is scientifically as it should be. People may argue that other options are equal but AIDS will tell them otherwise.


Ross S. Olson MD
Minneapolis MN 55417

Ms. Pat Scott
Dr. Robert J. Fererra

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