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Letter: Aids vaccine hope

Sir: Your coverage of Aids juxtaposes Nigel Wrench, with his costly cocktail of treatment which has so far arrested the progress of his disease, and the millions in Africa unable to afford a treatment which is likely to cost the UK pounds 300m a year by 2002.

I am not intending to say that Aids sufferers should not be treated but I wonder about the priorities of a health service in which: treatment after a stroke or other disease requiring rehabilitative care is greatly reduced once a patient reaches a certain age, usually 60; multiple sclerosis sufferers are being deprived of beta interferon by some health authorities on grounds of cost; and diabetics and schizophrenics are often given older, inferior treatment on the grounds of cost, despite severe side effects.

These patients have not had any choice about their disease. They could not have avoided it by choosing a different lifestyle. By contrast, Aids, smoking-related diseases, alcohol- and drug-related diseases and requests for abortion have usually come about because someone has taken a calculated risk.

If there is a limited pot from which health care costs can be met, is it not fair to ask the risk- takers to take some responsibility for the possible cost to the health service. Health insurance might be a start. If an insurance company will not cover you because of the risks you are taking, perhaps you need to ask yourself what other provision you should make and whether it really is worth the risk and the cost to others.


Nantwich, Cheshire