The Advocate (11.30.11) - Thursday, December 15, 2011
A new study finds that 5 percent of dental offices in Los
Angeles County have a blanket ban on serving people living
with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). English- and Spanish-speaking people
trained as "testers" called 612 dental offices during 2007-08,
posing as HIV-positive potential new patients. The testers
said they had private dental insurance as well as Denti-Cal, a
benefit under California's Medicaid program, noted the
researchers from the William Institute at University of
While most (90 percent) clinics were welcoming of HIV-positive
patients, 5 percent had an unlawful policy of refusing to
treat any PLWHA. The remaining 5 percent said they would treat
these clients differently in ways that could potentially
violate anti-discrimination laws.
The most popular excuse for refusing service was being ill-
equipped to handle patients with HIV/AIDS. Instances of
discrimination were higher in areas with high HIV infection
rates, neighborhoods with more low-income people, and areas
that would serve more people of color. Rates of discrimination
are likely higher in other areas of the United States,
suggested the institute's Brad Sears and colleagues. In Sears'
previous research between 2003 and 2006, 55 percent of
obstetricians, 46 percent of skilled nursing facilities and 25
percent of plastic surgeons had blanket policies of refusing
service to people with HIV/AIDS.
"The study suggests that consistent legal enforcement and
education efforts, both during dental school and afterwards,
have had a positive effect on dentists, and have thus created
expanded access to care for PLWHA," Sears said.
To access the report, visit: