Dental hygienists behaviour towards HIV-positive patients in highly active antiretroviral therapy era: a pilot survey

Int J Dent Hyg. 2011 Aug;9(3):204-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-5037.2010.00472.x. Epub 2010 Aug 15.


Objectives: Literature reports highlighted the presence of discriminatory episodes towards individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) on behalf of dental care workers. The purpose of this study was to assess hygienists' attitude when treating HIV-infected individuals in the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).

Methods: A national observational study was carried out on all the members of an Italian hygienist association. An anonymous questionnaire was mailed to 1247 hygienists: the questionnaire investigated demographic data, the relationship between the hygienists and HIV-infected persons, to identify the presence of discriminatory behaviour, the hygienists' scientific knowledge of HIV-related problems and the precautions normally used in the office to prevent cross-infections.

Results: Of the 1247 questionnaires that were delivered to hygienists, 287 (23%) were completed and returned within a 6-month period. A total of 287 hygienists answered the question 'Did you ever deny treatment to an HIV-infected persons?' and 17 hygienists (5.9%) replied 'Yes'. Protective eyewear [odds ratio (OR), 0.036; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.002-0.818; P = 0.037] and public practice [OR, 2.93; 95% CI, 0.97-8.87; P = 0.057] were associated with refusing to treat HIV-infected persons.

Conclusion: Our findings highlight the existence of episodes of discrimination by some hygienists towards HIV-infected individuals. From clinical point of view, this discriminatory behaviour may expose the dental health care workers and their patients to a greater risk of cross-infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dental Hygienists / education
  • Dental Hygienists / psychology*
  • Dental Scaling
  • Eye Protective Devices
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • HIV Seropositivity / drug therapy
  • HIV Seropositivity / psychology*
  • Health Education, Dental
  • Humans
  • Infection Control, Dental / methods
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prejudice
  • Public Health Practice
  • Refusal to Treat
  • Root Planing
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universal Precautions