Patients left scrambling after disgraced dentist goes into hiding

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DENVER -- It is a tough time right now for more than 8,000 people in metro Denver who have potentially been exposed to HIV and hepatitis by a suspended dentist.

The Colorado Health Department urges each former patient of Dr. Stephen Stein to seek tests for the diseases because of “unsafe injection practices” at his two offices.

Now, thousands of people are waiting for the results that could forever change their lives.

“Being a single mom, how could he do this to me? How could he do this to me? I don’t understand,” questions a Highlands Ranch mother who did not want to be identified.

She is afraid an HIV test she took Thursday will come back positive.

She won’t know for a week.

“It’s going to be hell. It’s going to be hard on me. What if it comes back positive and I have to tell my kids?”

Dr. Stein pulled out the mother’s tooth two years ago at his Highlands Ranch practice.

He used an intravenous device during the procedure.

It’s those needles and syringes the state health department says Stein re-used over and over—sometimes days at a time.

“I want to know why I have to worry about this all my life. This is going to be an ongoing battle. I will have to face this all my life now,” says the frightened mother.

Her family doctor says she’ll have to be re-tested every two years.

But Dr. David Colhn with Denver Health says that’s incorrect.

He says two consecutive tests are enough, if you are not in a high-risk category for the diseases, including intravenous drug users and those having unprotected sex.

“After six months (of exposure), if they acquired HIV, hepatitis b or hepatitis c, tests would be positive by now,” says Dr. Colhn. He says the antibodies for the infections show up on tests after six weeks. In very rare cases, it takes six months.

He suspects there’s relatively low risk of contracting HIV or the hepatitis infection from what happened in Stein’s office.

But only tests will bear that out.

He says negative results should bring peace of mind.

“They don’t have to worry there’s some infection that wasn’t detected. If they have the test and its negative, that’s all people have to be concerned about,” he says.

Dr. Colhn says Denver Health and some other clinics offer a rapid HIV test, in which results are available within 30 minutes. And those tests are often free or low-cost.

In Colorado, about 430 people a year are diagnosed with HIV.

Dr. Colhn says because of medical advances that vast majority will not develop AIDS.