PHILADELPHIA -- President Reagan declared AIDS 'public health enemy No. 1' today and called for morality in educating young people about its dangers.
In his first speech on the disease, Reagan, who Tuesday night suggested public school education on acquired immune deficiency syndrome should recommend sexual abstinence instead of methods of protection, told the Philadelphia College of Physicians, 'Almost every disease we know can be rapidly diagnosed and treated.'
'The most obvious and disturbing exception is AIDS. And yet here, too, medicine is vaulting ahead.'
The president told the prestigious medical academy, whose membership includes Dr. Richard Davis, brother of first lady Nancy Reagan, 'We've declared AIDS public health enemy No. 1.'
'But all the vaccines and medications in the world won't change one basic truth -- that prevention is better than cure, and that's particularly true of AIDS, for which there is no cure,' Reagan said.
'The federal role must be to give educators accurate information about the disease. How that information is used must be up to schools and parents, not government.
'But let's be honest with ourselves. AIDS information cannot be what some call 'value neutral.' After all, when it comes to preventing AIDS, don't medicine and morality teach the same lessons?'
Although critics have called for a greater government role, Reagan said Washington is spending $766 million on AIDS research and education and has asked for a 28 percent increase to $1 billion in fiscal 1988.
'That compares to $8 million just five years ago,' he said. 'Spending on AIDS has been one of the fastest growing areas of the budget.'
Reagan also said the government is 'unlocking the chains of regulation and making it easier to move from the pharmaceutical laboratory to the market with AIDS drugs.
The president said Food and Drug Administration approval of the drug AZT, the only effective treatment for AIDS yet known, took just four months -- one-fifth the average time for reviewing drugs.
'The limit on AIDS research today is not money or will, but the physical limits of research facilities and the number of people trained in the necessary techniques.'