Attitudes and practices of dentists treating patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus in the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy

Med Sci Monit. 2009 Jun;15(6):PH49-56.


Background: The purpose of this study was to assess dentists' attitudes when treating individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Italy.

Material/methods: A national observational study was carried out involving dentists selected from telephone directories of cities representative of the north, center, and south of Italy. An anonymous questionnaire was mailed to 8300 dentists. The first section investigated demographic data; the second section, the relationship between the dentist and persons infected with HIV, to identify the presence of discriminatory behavior and understand its rationales; and the third and fourth sections investigated dentists' scientific knowledge of HIV-related problems and the precautions normally used in the dentist's office to prevent cross-infections.

Results: Of the 8230 questionnaires that were delivered to dentists, 2112 (25.7%) were filled and returned within 6 months. 2066 dentists answered the question "Did you ever deny treatment to an HIV-infected person?" and 93 dentists (4.5%) replied "Yes." Using disposable instruments (odds ratio [OR], 1.83; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.18-2.83; P=.007); feeling right not to treat individuals infected with HIV (OR, 2.24; 95% CI, 1.25-4.03; P=.007); and a mild level of fear in treating HIV-positive patients (OR, 4.52; 95% CI, 2.41-8.49; P=.001) were associated with refusing to treat HIV-infected persons.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest the existence of episodes of discrimination by dentists toward individuals infected with HIV. From a clinical point of view, this discriminatory behavior may expose dental health care workers and their patients to greater risk of cross-infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active*
  • Demography
  • Dentists / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • HIV / physiology*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • HIV Seropositivity
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Perception
  • Refusal to Treat / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires