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Woman Infected by Dentist Ready to Take up Bergalis Cause

December 9, 1991

DETROIT (AP) _ Lisa Shoemaker was tested for the AIDS virus because she worried about a former boyfriend’s sexual practices. The test was positive, but she didn’t know she caught it from her dentist until she read about Kimberly Bergalis.

Bergalis died Sunday at her home in Fort Pierce, Fla., at age 23 after campaigning to require mandatory AIDS testing for health care workers.

Shoemaker, a 35-year-old office cleaner who contracted the virus from the same Florida dentist as Bergalis, is still healthy and said Monday she will continue the fight Bergalis waged.

″They say this is the only case documented, but if it happened once, I believe it can happen again,″ said Shoemaker, who lives in suburban Bloomfield Village.

″I’m trying to study as much as I can. There are things we can do. Mandatory testing is one of them,″ she said. ″Abstinence and monogamy are two important things we need to get back to. They really go hand-in-hand.″

Bergalis was the first person known to have caught the AIDS virus during a medical procedure.

After learning two years ago she was infected, Bergalis, a business student, began her campaign. In October, obviously in pain, she traveled by train to Washington to address a congressional panel to make her case.

″Please enact legislation so that no other patient or health-care provider will have to go through the hell that I have,″ she told the lawmakers.

A memorial service were scheduled Monday in Florida. Bergalis will be buried Thursday in Tamaqua, Pa., where her grandparents live.

Shoemaker and Bergalis were among 2,000 patients treated by Dr. David Acer when he already had AIDS. The Stuart, Fla., dentist died in 1990. The AIDS infections of another woman and two men also were traced to Acer’s treatment. They are: Barbara Webb, 65, a retired teacher in Palm City, Fla.; John Yecs Jr., in his 30s, a landscape worker in Stuart; and Richard Driskill, 31, a citrus worker also living in Stuart.

Shoemaker said she learned about Acer through a Welcome Wagon advertisement when she lived for a time in Florida. She visited Acer’s office a dozen times in 1988 for root-canal surgery.

Shoemaker’s attorney, Joel Cronin of Palm Beach, Fla., said Shoemaker learned in 1989 she had the disease. But it was a newspaper story about Bergalis that suggested Acer might be the source.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control test provided the link between Shoemaker’s AIDS and Acer.

Shoemaker will have company continuing the Bergalis cause.

Ms. Webb has just completed work on a documentary to teach teen-agers how to avoid AIDS.

″This has to do with mandatory testing, which Kim was working so hard to promote, but it isn’t only mandatory testing. I will continue to work at that, to speak to whatever state legislators ask for me,″ Ms. Webb said. She visits Ohio next month, where whe will lobby lawmakers.

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