Dental hygienists' knowledge of HIV, attitudes towards people with HIV and willingness to conduct rapid HIV testing

A J Santella, B Krishnamachari, S H Davide, M Cortell, W Furnari, B Watts, S C Haden
International Journal of Dental Hygiene 2013, 11 (4): 287-92

OBJECTIVES: To normalize rapid human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing in the United States, expanded rapid HIV testing initiatives are needed outside the routine medical setting. The dental setting is a logical choice as almost two-thirds of Americans regularly see a dental provider each year. This study was aimed to determine the dental hygienists' knowledge of HIV, attitudes towards people living with HIV and willingness to conduct rapid HIV testing.

METHODS: A national cross-sectional survey of practicing dental hygienists and senior dental hygiene students were recruited using state dental hygiene associations, email LISTSERVS, dental hygiene programmes and continuing education conferences (n = 634).

RESULTS: The mean knowledge score was 10.5/13. High versus low test-scorers (75% of test questions or more answered correctly versus less than 75% answered correctly) did differ in their comfort level in counselling about sexual HIV prevention methods (P = 0.03) and comfort level in working with medically compromised patients (P = 0.04).

CONCLUSION: Dental hygienists, with additional training in HIV prevention counseling and diagnostic testing, may be an appropriate profession to conduct rapid HIV testing.

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