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Study Finds Dental Patients are Willing to Receive HIV-Testing

Update Date: Jul 15, 2014 11:08 AM EDT

Preventive measures could be the difference between life and death. When people take the time to care for their health by undergoing screenings, they can increase their survival rates by addressing problems early on. Despite being informed about different preventive measures, many sexually active people forgo the HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) test.

In a new study conducted in Australia, researchers found that the majority of dental patients were willing to undergo an HIV test. The team reasoned that if HIV tests were promoted in the dental setting, more people could get diagnosed, which would reduce the chances of HIV spreading.

"Dentists are well placed to offer rapid HIV testing because they're located throughout the community, have ongoing relationships with their patients, and have the necessary training and expertise to recognize systemic diseases that have oral manifestations, such as HIV/AIDS," stated the study's lead author, Dr. Anthony Santella of the University of Sydney.

For this study, the researchers recruited 521 dental patients from Sydney. The researchers interviewed the patients about their willingness to get tested for HIV and whether or not they would pay for it. The majority of the patients, at over 80 percent, stated that they would not mind undergoing a rapid HIV test. This form of test looks for HIV antibodies via a blood or a saliva sample. 76 percent of the dental patients opted for the oral swab while 15 percent picked the simple finger prick test. Eight percent preferred the traditionally blood test. The results come back in 20 minutes.

"If rapid HIV testing was widely available in dental settings it could help to reduce the spread of the virus by informing people who aren't aware that they are HIV-positive," Dr. Santella stated according to the press release. "It's important that policymakers and other stakeholders consider expanding rapid HIV testing beyond medical and sexual health clinics because the average time from HIV infection to diagnosis in Australia is currently more than three years. As well, we have fresh evidence that around 45 per cent of dentists feel prepared and willing to perform rapid HIV-testing. This means it would be feasible to offer rapid HIV testing through dental settings, especially in targeted at risk communities."

The study's findings were presented at the Sydney University HIV Testing Symposium.

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