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New Club Says It Seeks to Minimize Risk of AIDS Exposure

April 15, 1987

BARRINGTON, Ill. (AP) _ For $195 a year, singles can join an AIDS-free club that requires members to be tested every four months for exposure to the deadly virus and to agree not to have sex with non-members.

Jim Raim said he formed the American AIDS-Free Association last week because of risks posed by the disease.

″We aren’t in the business of introducing people or promoting intimacy, but we are trying to make it safer when people do meet,″ he said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Raim, who separated recently after 12 years of marriage, said he became concerned about AIDS after talking with his physician.

″I don’t think the average person in the singles world realizes the danger involved in even heterosexual contact these days,″ said Raim, 36.

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome destroys the body’s ability to fight disease. Groups at highest risk for getting the disease are male homosexuals, intravenous drug abusers and their sexual partners.

Steve Wakefield, deputy director of a clinic which provides testing and care for AIDS and other medical problems of the gay community on Chicago’s North Side, said, ″It’s very disappointing to see that the AIDS-free clubs have come into Chicagoland.″

″I have heard of them in other cities, and, for the most part, they have been profit-making ventures that play on people’s natural fears, mislead people and don’t give them accurate information,″ he said.

″The HIV antibody test tells you your status for that day only - you might test negative today and show up positive tomorrow,″ Wakefield said, noting that it is believed the gap between exposure to the virus and positive test results can be as long as two years.

Raim said his group would require each prospective member to take an AIDS antibody test administered by a participating doctor.

″We have recruited 20 to 25 members since last Thursday and are awaiting the test results on a number of others,″ Raim said.

Only those who show no presence of the antibody will be admitted, he said. And they must sign agreements not to use intravenous drugs and to refrain from sexual relations with people who are not AAFA members, Raim said.

The annual dues will entitle members to a newsletter and blood tests every four months. Raim said a portion of the membership fee will be donated to AIDS research, but he did not specify which groups or researchers would receive the donations.

In New York, a dating service is recruiting members who must submit proof that they have tested negative for the AIDS antibody. The service, called Ampersand, will verify the information by getting in touch with the doctor who gave the test.

The membership fee is $600 for six months, with an initial introductory price of $390, according to Gail Sheffler, the 27-year-old president of the new service.

Ampersand will have no members for at least two or three weeks, while prospective members undergo tests and the results are verified, Miss Sheffler said Tuesday. However, she said, early indications of interest were good - ″The phone is ringing off the hook.″

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