The Aids Issue

Voice Card  -  Volume 21  -  Drury Card Number 6  -  Mon, Aug 5, 1991 2:31 PM

Another Controversial Subject!

I made the mistake of reading a Newsweek magazine (I was on an airplane, I didn't have ANYTHING else to do). I understand that there is a law that may require medical personnel to reveal their AIDS status. Apparently this is in response to that dentist who infected several of his patients.

I am horrified! Sure I feel very sorry for those people contracting AIDS from that dentist. But what about the cases from blood transfusions or babies from AIDS positive mothers or the health care workers exposed to AIDS patients or people receiving organs from AIDS positive cadavers? They are just as innocent!! It is just as horrible for them too! If medical people need to expose their status, so should EVERYONE else.

Did you know that surgeons are not permitted to ask a patient for the AIDS test results? Those surgeons are definitely exposed to the blood of those people AND it is not uncommon for a surgeon to stab herself/himself with a sharp instrument (eg. bone pins, scalpel blade, scissors) during a surgery. What about those emergency personnel scraping people out of automobile accidents, or police officers getting bit by some drug crazed person (YES, this has happened, too!)? What about all of us who are trained in first aide? How do we protect ourselves, if we come in contact with an AIDS positive person? If one group is required to label themselves - ALL should be required to be branded!!

As I read the article, I wondered why no one asked HOW that dentist infected his clients. Did he use his own dental tools on his mouth and not sterilize the tools? Did he spit into their mouths? Did he cut himself and bleed into their gums?

The really big issue here is about the sterility of medical instruments used on multiple patients. My dentist got hepatitis from one of his patients. At that time, it was not uncommon to work on a person's mouth with ungloved hands. I think the focus of this outbreak should be on medical sterility procedures - from the surgical instruments to the medical personnels' hands to table drapes, thermometers, bed sheets. Even if your dentist posted that he/she was AIDS negative, how would you feel about having him/her use the same instruments in your mouth that had just been used in an AIDS positive person? The question is the sterility of the procedures, NOT the labeling of a person's health status!!

I believe the medical community should be left to police itself. Positive medical caregivers can limit their contact to positive patients or to non-invasive procedures (reading radiographs, clinical pathology, animal health). But they shouldn't be forced to face public exposure when no one else has to! Just like those medical caregivers who are drug addicts or alcoholics, they should receive consuling and should be held liable for their "actions".

What do you think?