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Miss America 1988 Advocates AIDS Testing And Safe Sex

September 20, 1987

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ The newly crowned Miss America 1988, Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, is a nurse who said Sunday she believes in mandatory AIDS testing but is not sure if she’ll be allowed to promote safe sex in her new role.

Miss Rafko, 24, of Monroe, Mich., of Ukrainian ancestry in spite of her Hawaiian name, was quizzed by reporters during a Sunday morning news conference, while the other competitors were packing to return home.

Until she became Miss America on Saturday night, she was a registered nurse at a hospital in Toledo, Ohio, working with terminally ill cancer and AIDS patients.

Miss Rafko said she advocates mandatory blood testing for everyone to halt the spread of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

″Why not? We have blood tests,″ she said. ″This is important. This is affecting everyone.″

Miss Rafko also believes the public needs to be better educated about AIDS, especially that the fatal disease is said to be transmitted only through blood and semen.

″People don’t understand the disease and its transmission, and I understand how they feel,″ she said. ″But I have gone up to AIDS patients and held their hands without wearing gloves.″

Miss Rafko hesitatingly looked at officials from the Miss America Pageant when asked if she would use her title to promote safe sex.

″I’m not sure about working with the Miss America program - what’s within rules and regulations,″ she said.

Based on her medical background, though, she said: ″I would say the best thing is abstinence. But you know that people ... are going to perform the sexual activity, and I think (it’s important that) they’re just well-educated on how to protect themselves.″

Miss Rafko, who once considered becoming a nun, also hesitated when asked if, as a nurse working with the terminally ill, she believes in euthanasia.

″When a patient no longer has the ability to make a decision, then it should be up to the immediate family,″ she said. ″I also think a new ruling should be set (so) when a patient is considered brain dead, then they should just pronounce the patient (dead) instead of continuing life support systems.″

Elsewhere, Miss Delaware, Anne Marie Jarka, was asked if the judges picked the right woman to wear the crown.

″It’s got to say something about her, if you know anything about oncology (dealing with cancer). It takes a special person to do that,″ she said.

In the Miss America Pageant, Miss Rafko won a preliminary swimsuit competition and performed a Hawaiian-Tahitian dance for the talent competition, wearing a grass skirt and bikini top and sporting a 16-inch-high headdress. She wore an elaborately beaded bride’s dress for the evening gown competition.

After beating 50 other contestants to win the coveted crown, Miss Rafko briefly attended the Miss America Ball before being taken back to her hotel and moved to a posh suite.

By 3 a.m. she was ordered to bed by her chaperones, who warned her that she had to be on the beach by 6:45 a.m. for photographers.

″But I noticed that only my competition wardrobe was in the room. They had yet to move my other things,″ she said. ″So there I just laid down on the couch in my competition gown and slept with my crown on.″

First runner-up in this year’s Miss America Pageant was Miss Louisiana Patricia Brant. Second runner-up was Mis Nevada Stacie James. Third runner-up was Miss Colorado La Tanya R. Hall. Fourth runner-up was Miss Mississippi Toni Seawright.

″It’s just been a long week and I’m ready to go home and get some rest and just go back to being Miss Georgia,″ said 20-year-old Kelly Jerles.

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