A New Weapon To Fight HIV

(AP Photo/Orasure, Chuck Zovko)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.1 million people in the United States are infected with HIV, and almost 1 in 5 (18.1%) don’t know it.


Because even though it’s been more than 30 years since the world-at-large was introduced to the term HIV, many people still believe that the face of HIV can’t possibly look like them!  If more people realized that HIV does not discriminate, I suspect that HIV stats would be much lower by now.  You see, HIV does not care if you are young, old, rich or poor. It simply doesn’t care about your race, gender, attractiveness, car, marital status, job type, etc.

HIV does NOT discriminate!

So, here’s what I’ve come up with to help lower HIV infection rates…

Open Wide!

Did you know that the mouth is one of several places where early signs and symptoms of HIV infection can be detected?

HIV infection can appear as a yeast infection in the mouth, a white hairy-looking growth on the side of the tongue. There is also a distinct type of HIV gingivitis found in the mouth as well.  Due to these two facts, I recognized years ago that dentists have a unique opportunity to help screen for HIV and let people know their status by simply incorporating rapid HIV testing into their routine oral health checks.

In 2009, I partnered with the New York State Department of Health to become the dental industry leader in this crusade and became the first private practice dentist in the United States to offer the OraQuick ADVANCE® test.

That’s right! Now, when you visit the dentist for a regular check up and cleaning, you can learn both your cavity/gum disease status and your HIV status, too.  How cool is that?

Here’s how HIV testing works in our dental office:

Step 1.  Before starting the scheduled dental procedure, we explain the test, offer pre-test counseling, and a simple 1 page consent form is signed.

Step 2.  We administer the HIV screening test.  The OraQuick test is very easy; the patient simply swabs the outer gums with the device and then inserts the device into a vial containing a developer solution.  The test takes only 20 minutes to complete.

Step 3.  We then begin regular patient care by performing a dental check up and teeth cleaning.

Step 4.  At the end of the visit, the patient is given their preliminary HIV test results.  The test has proven to be 99.3% accurate for people who are infected with HIV.  The only disadvantage to the rapid HIV test is that it does not offer a “confirmed” HIV positive result.  Individuals who receive a “preliminary positive” result with the OraQuick ADVANCE® must be referred to their primary care physician or partnering clinic to confirm the positive test results.

What’s the response been like?

Since 2009, the patient response has been surprisingly great.  Most patients have stated that they prefer this method because the test was effortless.  No blood has to be drawn and the agony of waiting a whole week is eliminated as well.  Patients have also said that the dental setting made the test feel a little less threatening.  In addition, I’ve had many patients opt to take the test for the first time in my office because it was convenient – the truth of the matter is that more patients actually see their dentist more frequently than their medical doctor.  When they do visit their medical doctor, HIV testing is not routinely offered.

My goal…

As the dental industry leader in private practice, my goal is to inspire more private practice dentists to take the challenge, get certified, and offer HIV testing.  My mission is to have rapid HIV testing in dental offices become a national standard of care. Why? It will help encourage regular testing among Americans, so that those patients who are HIV positive will not spread the disease, will receive proper treatment, and will continue to live long, healthy lives.

For more information on the HIV virus, HIV testing with the new FDA approved Oraquick In-Home HIV Test, and more HIV resources, visit www.oraquick.com

For more information about HIV testing in the dental office contact Dr. Catrise Austin at www.vipsmiles.com.