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Most controversial of public health measures are requirements that restrict people’s freedom for the purpose of protecting their own health and safety. Examples of such measures include requirements to wear seat belts when traveling in a car and helmets when riding a motorcycle. Such laws inspire allusions to “the tyranny of health” and “the health police,” although restrictions on many drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD, and during prohibition in the early 20th century alcohol have been generally accepted.


AIDS has been an especially divisive issue because so many people with AIDS contracted the disease through behavior that is widely regarded as immoral homosexual acts and intravenous drug use. Consequently, AIDS related policy has often been confounded by moral revulsion against the disease and its victims.


While not supported by the evidence, it is commonly believed that education on how to protect oneself against contracting the virus that causes AIDS may encourage homosexuality and promiscuous sexual behavior in general. Similarly, moralists frown on the practice of providing clean needles to drug addicts because, while it is effective in reducing the spread of the virus, they believe it condones the use of intravenous drugs. Governments have broad power to act in ways that curtail the rights of individuals.