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When the shoe is on the other foot.

Surgeons, dentists, and other health workers whose duties expose them to blood or other body fluids are very mindful these days of the AIDS threat. Most dentists, for example, now wear gloves and masks while working in the patient's mouth. One prominent San Francisco surgeon even wears a complete "space suit" while operating.

Fortunately, the risk of contracting AIDS from patients has proved thus far to be very low-but what about vice versa? When it was learned that the recent death of a Florida dentist was due to AIDS, the local health authority offered the dentist's patients free HIV blood tests. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta have estimated that as many as 300 surgeons and 1,200 dentists may be infected with the AIDS virus. The CDC calculate that, as a group, they may have infected as few as 13, or as many as 128, of their patients. At worst, this would mean that the chance of being infected by one's doctor or dentist is less than one in a million. Nonetheless, the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association have urged their members with AIDS to warn their patients, or cease their practices altogether.

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent a surgeon or dentist with AIDS from continuing to practice. We can only hope that those so afflicted will act responsibly when they learn that they have the disease.
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Title Annotation:risk of contracting AIDS from infected health professional
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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