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Chilling news that challenged rational belief: A woman explores her reaction to the death of her dentist from Aids

MOST intelligent and well- informed people know the facts about Aids. They are aware of how the HIV virus is transmitted, who is most at risk and that you are only likely to be in danger if you come into contact with blood products.

They probably despise the scaremongering and ignorance that still surrounds the disease. I know I do. But when I heard that my former dentist had died of an Aids- related illness, I suddenly had to take an honest look at what I believed was a carefully thought out standpoint.

My first reaction was an immediate and surprising knee jerk. Should I get tested?

The chances of catching HIV in this way are probably a million to one. The last time I saw my former dentist, he looked ill, and his nurse did most of the work. She told me he had just got over hepatitis, but was on the road to recovery.

I cannot recall if he wore gloves, I do not think he did. But even so, it is extremely unlikely that his blood came into contact with mine. And yet . . . a tiny scratch or cut on his hands and an abrasion inside my mouth is all it might take.

This is the first time I have come close to Aids. My level of risk is incredibly low. I am in a stable long-term relationship; I have never injected drugs and, barring accidents, I am unlikely to need a blood transfusion. But even knowing all the facts, the news was chilling for all the wrong reasons.

It is no bad thing to be forced to look beyond political correctness at your own gut reactions. It is also worthwhile to have to ask yourself some serious questions. For example, would I really want to know if I had been the unlucky victim of a million-to- one chance?

The chances are that my partner would already be infected. There would not be much point unless I was entering a new relationship.

By sheer chance, the decision to test has been taken out of my hands. The day I heard the news, I received a letter from the blood transfusion service, asking me to go along and give blood in the next few weeks. I am to be tested anyway, without appearing like one of those frightened people who jammed the switchboard of the special helpline that was set up.

But that, of course, is the point - we are all scared deep down, whoever we are.