When the doctor has AIDS

December 24, 1991|By Providence (R.I.) Journal-Bulletin

KIMBERLY BERGALIS died of AIDS at the age of 23. She was not a drug abuser who shared tainted intravenous needles, nor did she ever engage in unsafe sex. All she did was visit her dentist.

Little could she have known that by the time she left his office, she would be infected with the AIDS virus that has now taken her life. Her dentist, Dr. David Acer of Stuart, Fla., knew that he had been carrying the AIDS virus for several years.

Regrettably, most health-care organizations have joined forces to resist a reasonable proposal that is aimed at minimizing even further the admittedly rare likelihood of similar tragedies in the future.

The federal Centers for Disease Control has been trying to institute a plan whereby medical personnel would be tested for AIDS, with those who test positive being ordinarily barred from engaging in surgery or other invasive procedures that might incur the risk of transmitting the AIDS virus to patients.

Opponents claim they are resisting the CDC plan because it is not needed: AIDS-infected health-care workers, they say, pose no special danger to patients, provided that recommended safety precautions are taken.

That may be so, but why should members of the public, who support the CDC plan by a 2-to-1 margin, have to worry about becoming unsuspecting victims of infected medical personnel, like David Acer, who fail to follow the requisite safety procedures?

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