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A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper by John Allen Paulos

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Florida Dentist Accused of Intentionally Spreading AIDS

Rumors, Self-Fulfilling Prophecies, and National Obsessions

Everyone’s heard of the Florida dentist who infected, possibly intentionally, six of his patients with the AIDS virus. An investigation of the story by Stephen Barr in Lear’s magazine and an excerpt in a New York Times op-ed in March 1994 revealed a number of lacunae in the case against the dentist. It appears that some, if not all, of the victims had other risk factors that might have exposed them. And the test used to determine whether two strains of the virus are the same is still controversial and not widely accepted. Furthermore, the rate of HIV infection among the dentist’s many patients was only slightly higher than the overall ...

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