I Want You ALL To Get Tested For HIV
Why is a dental hygienist (AGAIN) talking so bluntly about a sexually transmitted disease? Is it because I work around spit and blood all day long and I’m afraid of contracting it? Is it because I know people who have it and I worry that more will get it? Is it because I work in the healthcare field and I have the potential of saving lives? YES , YES and YES!!!
This morning I opened up the current month’s magazine called Dimensions of Dental Hygiene and my eyes went straight to a photo of a fellow hygienist and new friend Jasmine Haley, RDH, BSDH, CDA.
She is an educator, dental hygienist, and co-founder of MOMgieniests LLC., and someone I respect for simply being a good human being. After just the second paragraph of her article updating us on the HIV/AIDS stats, I got sick to my stomach. It’s easy to forget about how horrible this disease is and how many people are living with it when it’s not blasted all over the news. It’s not hard to put it out of mind when so many people are successfully managing their blood levels and symptoms. But the fact is that it still has no cure and according to amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, about 240 people EVERY HOUR are being infected with this disease around the world.
Dental hygienists are responsible for collecting medical histories from our patients. Every single question on that form has value because it gives us a better ability to treat each patient with customized care. We are always on the lookout for lumps and bumps, symptoms and abnormalities that could be the result of something much worse. I applaud the honest patients that put a check mark next to the HIV/AIDS box because I know that is a very courageous thing to do. I know that there are many of you out there that have been diagnosed with this horrible disease and feel embarrassed to tell anyone. I also know that there are a HUGE number of you that have HIV or AIDS and have no clue that it is in your system. THIS is why we use standard precautions. This is why we treat every single patient like they have a potentially infectious disease. And for all of those reasons, I want you to look at the most recent statistics from the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization:
How Many New Infections Happen Each Year?
CDC – In 2014, there were an estimated 37,600 new HIV infections in the US—down from 45,700 in 2008
WHO – The estimated annual number of new HIV infections in 2015 was 35% lower than in 2000: 2.1 million [1.8–2.4 million] versus 3.2 million [2.9–3.5 million] (worldwide)
How Many New Diagnosed Cases Are There Each Year?
CDC – In 2015, 39,513 people were diagnosed with HIV in the United States
How Many People Are Living With HIV?
CDC – An estimated 1.1 million people in the United States were living with HIV at the end of 2014, the most recent year for which this information is available. Of those people, about 15%, or 1 in 7, did not know they were infected.
WHO – 36.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide in 2015
What Can The Dental Office Do For a Person With HIV or AIDS?
These oral issues may occur more commonly with our HIV/AIDS patients either from the condition itself (weakened immune system) or from medications taken to control it:
- Dry Mouth
- Salivary Gland Swelling
- Corners of the Mouth Getting Raw or Blistered
- Viral Patches
- Oral Warts
- Oral Cancers
- HPV lesions
- Bone Loss
When we know that someone is living life with HIV or AIDS, we are automatically inclined to look more carefully for symptoms related to their condition. We admittedly need to remind ourselves of the current statistics on how many people are living with HIV that have not been diagnosed. When we know a patient has ANY medical condition, we are more careful to look for oral manifestations and how we can treat them or refer to a medical doctor or specialist as needed. However, we all need to continue carefully performing our oral cancer screenings for anything out of the ordinary that might clue us into medical conditions not yet reported or diagnosed.
I made a promise to myself and my patients when I graduated from a dental hygiene program with this oath:
“In my practice as a dental hygienist, I affirm my personal and professional commitment to improve the oral health of the public, to advance the art and science of dental hygiene, and to promote high standards of quality care.
I pledge continually to improve my professional knowledge and skills, to render a full measure of service to each patient entrusted to my care, and to uphold the highest standards of professional competence and personal conduct in the interest of the dental hygiene profession and the public it serves.”
How You Can Get Tested
At the end of the day, YOU are the only one you can trust to get tested and stay safeguarded against getting the HIV virus. If you need a refresher on how you can prevent HIV and how it is and is not transmitted, read HERE. There are several easy ways you can get tested for HIV. Either visit your regular doctor, through a clinic, or take a test in the convenience of your home. Click on each option below for details!
- Uses a mouth swab and gives results in 20 to 40 minutes
- Home test accurate 99.98 percent of the time
- FDA Approved At-Home HIV Test Clinically Proven To Be More Than 99.9% Accurate
- Safe, Accurate, Confidential and Easy to Use in The Comfort of Your Own Home
- Lab Results and Counseling Available by Toll-Free Telephone Support
- An Easy Non-Invasive, Simple Fingerstick Sample is All That is Needed
- Anonymous – You Are Identified Only by a Code Number That Comes With Your Kit
As always, I hope this information is helpful is some way. Remember to be as forthcoming with your dental team so they can give you the best possible treatment. This is not a peer-reviewed blog but I do my best to be as accurate as possible when it comes to statistics and things where details are important. Thanks for taking the time to read this and let me know if you have any input or questions.