Wyoming Dental Hygienist Offers HIV Testing
A Wyoming dental hygienist has teamed up with an AIDS educator to offer HIV testing right in the dentist’s office! The CDC recommended this fall that voluntary HIV screening become a part of regular medical care for all teens and adults. Hygienist Stacy Smith is doing her part by offering to take an oral swab as part of her standard dental cleaning routine. The swabs are sent to an outside lab for analysis, and results take about two weeks. Once she completes her training, Smith will offer OraQuick testing, which returns results in only 20 minutes.
Other dental practices have not been quick to join the trend. Fear of a positive HIV test result has kept some doctors away. A crucial aspect of offering testing is being able to properly handle notification and follow-up should a positive result arise. In addition, some dentists may be wary of being perceived as “the AIDS dentist.” And last (but certainly not least) are financial considerations: the program is state-funded and so offered free to patients, but that model doesn’t apply to dentists in private practice.
Wyoming’s HIV rates are relatively low. With a population of about half a million, the state’s Department of Health estimates that about 140 residents are living with HIV/AIDS. Of course, 25% of those infected with HIV in the US don’t know it. Since they don’t know they’re infected, they’re far more likely to infect someone else. Smith is enthusiastic about making testing more commonplace. She also thinks it’s a natural match for dentists and dental hygienists, because HIV infection can lead to changes in the mouth.
Learn more about this innovative program by reading the full story.