Mail

updated 11/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Among readers who wrote concerning our story on AIDS victim Kimberly Bergalis (PEOPLE, Oct. 22) were nine dentists, most of whom were skeptical that Bergalis could have contracted AIDS from her dentist. Several dental hygienists, however, suspected the infection was caused by a contaminated dental instrument.

KIMBERLY BERGALIS
Like so many others battling HIV infection, Kimberly Bergalis deserves our full sympathy and support. Less so her father, George, who is quoted as saying, "Her sickness would have been easier to accept if she'd been a slut or a drug user." What he fails to see is that the ignorance and prejudice his remark displays are precisely the reasons that, 10 years and nearly 100,000 U.S. deaths into this holocaust, government funding and research still fall far short of the levels needed to save his daughter.
Mike Stample
Los Angeles

While I have great sympathy for Kim Bergalis, I find it difficult to believe that she contracted AIDS from dental treatment, assuming that her dentist followed all the accepted guidelines for disease prevention and control. There is a great deal of misinformation, apprehension and fear surrounding the AIDS problem. I would hope that your magazine will not contribute to the situation by fanning the flames until all the facts are known.
David N. Grayson, D.D.S.
Parsippany, N.J.

Probably not until the entire dental profession has a bad name will it be absolutely proved that Kim Bergalis contracted the AIDS virus from another source.
Charon Robertson
Adrian, Mich.

As a temporary dental assistant, I am employed in many different offices every month, and I am appalled at what goes on in most of them. Over 50 percent do not use proper sterilization procedures for their equipment or instruments. The dentists want to see as many patients as possible, so they do not schedule enough time between patients for the staff to perform the tasks necessary. Some assistants skip lunch or stay late to sterilize instruments, but because so few dentists provide overtime pay, the job is neglected far too often.
Name and City Withheld

I feel equally sad for Kim Bergalis and the 24 health-care workers who have become HIV positive or acquired AIDS from their patients. Currently the political concern is for the rights of infected individuals. Physicians may not determine a patient's HIV status without his or her permission, and anyone choosing not to treat an infected individual could be found guilty of discrimination. Is this still appropriate in light of this "new" information, or has the CDC misled the public by prematurely releasing a poorly documented case? We should reconsider routine screening for HIV. We must consider the rights of uninfected patients as well as those of health-care professionals who may expose themselves and their families to the risk of fatal illness.
Nicholas Veaco, D.D.S., M.D.
Los Angeles

Kim Bergalis's sister says words cannot express her anger. Words also cannot express the anger that should be directed against the medical establishment that allowed the dentist to continue practicing and that seems to be doing all it can to deny such a transmission of AIDS could happen.
Herm Albright
Indianapolis

I have worked as a registered dental hygienist for 16 years. Everything I have ever experienced in dentistry tells me that the likelihood of Kim Bergalis's infection by a contaminated instrument or surface surpasses by a long shot any chance of her contamination by a masked, gloved dentist.
Jane Hosmer
St. Johnsbury, Vt.

Your article should have been entitled "The Lady and the Scissors." It is obvious that the $5 haircuts she gave were Bergalis's undoing.
Kent S. Lamoureux, D.D.S.
Lakewood, Ohio

INGRID NEWKIRK
Ingrid Newkirk's compassion and dedication are inspirational. I spent today sending products that were tested on animals back to their manufacturers and going to my first health-food store. I finally feel like I can give something back to the planet after taking for so long.
Teresa Spiegel
Washington, D.C.

I, too, deplore cruelty to animals, but as a mother, I want the medical community to have every option available in developing methods to fight disease. I agree with a ban on fur coats, and I see no valid reason for using animals in cosmetic testing. But I cannot imagine watching children suffer and die because the sensitivities of a few animal-rights activists might be trodden upon. Medical research with animals absolutely must be allowed.
Cynthia Dalen
Mexia, Texas

It has always been a curiosity to me why the medical community must use helpless animals to experiment on when we have prisons loaded with people on Death Row living off the taxpayers' dollars.
Beth L. Law
Concord, N.H.

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