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October 27, 1989

AIDS, Autopsies, and Abandonment

JAMA. 1989;262(16):2231-2232. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430160049022

To the Editor.—  When it comes to the risk of health care workers, contracting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection there has been, in the words of Dr Volberding, director of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) activities at San Francisco (Calif) General Hospital, "denial."1 While it is encouraging that Gerbert and colleagues2 urge acknowledgment of this risk, it is unfortunate that Drs Ratzan and Schneiderman3 add their voices to this denial when they dismiss my reasonable assessment of this risk4 without offering an alternative.Contrary to the charge of Drs Ratzan and Schneiderman, it is clear that any assessment of the risk to health care workers of contracting HIV is inherently "based on unverifiable assumptions."Calculating the risk to health care workers of contracting HIV requires three figures: (1) the risk of contracting HIV from a contaminated needle-stick injury, (2) the number of needle-stick injuries a health care