HIV is not unique as an infectious agent. More than 60 infectious diseases are
reportable in various states and are a common part of public health practice.
HIV is less difficult to work with and control than many other diseases because
it is less easily spread. Diseases that may be spread through casual respiratory
contact, for example, can be much more difficult to prevent and control.
Tuberculosis was controlled before it was treatable. Other diseases with carrier
states must be managed without definitive therapy. Standard public health
such as public education, screening, and contact tracing also are effective in
the control of HIV.
Fear is both a problem and an opportunity in disease control. Public hysteria
can make rational disease control measures impossible. Yet without some
level of fear, it is impossible to keep the public and their elected
representatives interested in disease control. During the polio epidemics of the
1930s and 1940s, people canceled group meetings of all kinds, threw away
food because a fly had lighted on it, and defied school attendance laws. The
advent of Salk’s vaccine brought the polio epidemics and the associated
hysteria to an end. Less than 30 years later, it is difficult to maintain proper
levels of immunization against measles because parents believe the disease is
eradicated and do not have their children immunized.