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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Doc's warning

I wrote an "RIP, Doc Bowen" editorial for tomorrow's page that focused mostly on the property tax caps he muscled through the General Assembly in 1973. That was probably the biggest accomplishment of his political career and for decades after that they were called "the Bowen caps" by politicians and journalists alike as shorthand for the fiscal environment the state was dealing with.

But he deserves recognition for something else, too, something he added to our language about sexual behavior:

He became secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1985, taking charge of the federal government’s response to the spread of AIDS after the Reagan administration had been criticized by activists for a slow initial response.

Bowen promoted public awareness of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and worked with Surgeon General C. Everett Koop on the mailing to 107 million households of a pamphlet with explicit advice on how to avoid the AIDS virus, including using condoms.

During a 1987 news conference, Bowen gave a bit of advice that entered the national lexicon: “Remember, when a person has sex, they’re not just having it with that partner, they’re having it with everybody that partner had it with for the past 10 years."

Man, did that creep me out when I first heard it. Still does, a little.