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Two More Patients of Dentist Who Died of AIDS Test Positive

September 22, 1990

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Two former patients of a dentist who died of AIDS have tested positive for the virus, and officials are anxious to pin down exactly how they were infected.

″We need to be able to begin gathering information about what, if any, risk groups these folks may be part of,″ said Steve Konicki, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. ″We don’t have any answers to that right now.″

The source of the virus in the two patients notified Friday has not been determined, Konicki said. The names of the patients were not released.

David J. Acer, a dentist in Stuart, died of AIDS-related cancer Sept. 3, three days after he wrote to his patients to tell them he was dying of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

The letter was written after the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta said a dentist had passed the virus to a 21-year-old woman while pulling two of her teeth. The CDC did not name the dentist or the patient.

Soon after Acer died, Kimberly Bergalis of Fort Pierce said she was the patient in the CDC report and that Acer was her dentist.

In the letter, Acer said he followed safety guidelines - such as wearing a mask and gloves while treating patients - and doubted whether he had transmitted the disease. But he urged former patients to be tested to allay their fears.

Konicki said 364 of Acer’s former patients have been tested, with results back on 354. The three were the only ones to test positive, he said.

Konicki said 100 more former patients of the dentist awaited testing.

Dr. Andrew Hirschl, president of the Miami Beach Dental Society, reacted with concern about the Health and Rehabilitative Services announcement.

″There has been tremendous hysteria on the public’s part in hearing these released stories with premature conclusions,″ Hirschl said. ″These stories are not thoroughly researched as of yet.

″It is difficult to practice a profession and explain to patients that quite frankly you don’t get this disease from a dentist who is practicing dentistry in a prudent manner,″ he said.

The CDC estimates that up to 1.5 million Americans are infected with the AIDS virus.

Health officials said Florida has the third highest number of people with AIDS behind California and New York. In Florida, 12,041 people have been diagnosed with the virus since 1981, and state officials estimate 120,000 more are carriers.

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