A recent Red Cross small-business survey -- emphasizing the views of companies with just nine or fewer employees -- shows a breathtaking lack of preparation for the consequences of AIDS.

Though many companies feel surprisingly invulnerable to the epidemic and don't see the need to educate their employees about it, the facts suggest they should think again. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 million Americans are infected -- roughly one in every 250.

* Few small companies have confronted any kind of long-term disability in their work force.

Have you ever had an employee with a serious, long-term medical condition that interfered with his or her ability to work?

Have not had that experience 86%

Have had that experience 13

Don't know 5

Not sure 1

* Nearly half feel they're less likely than other companies to ever have an employee with AIDS.

How vulnerable is your company to the HIV epidemic, compared with other similar companies?

Less likely than others 46%

to have an employee with AIDS

About as likely as others 45

More likely than others 3

No answer 1

* And most would not schedule an AIDS-education session for their employees.

If cost were not an issue, would you schedule a one- to two-hour AIDS-education session, led by a Red Cross instructor, for your employees?

Have already conducted 1%

similar program

Definitely or probably would 32

Not sure 3

Definitely or probably 65

would not

Charts Source: "HIV/AIDS Education in the Workplace: A National Survey of U.S. Small Businesses," American Red Cross, 1991.