Widespread support for rapid HIV testing in dental surgeries
More than 80 per cent of oral health patients are willing to receive rapid HIV-testing in dental settings, which could help reduce the spread of the HIV according to a groundbreaking study revealed recently at a Sydney University HIV Testing Symposium.
The first of its kind study of 521 Sydney-based dental patients assessed patients’ willingness to undergo rapid HIV testing in dental settings, their preference for HIV testing-type type and their willingness to pay for the test.
Rapid HIV testing is a screening test that swiftly detects the presence of HIV antibodies in a person’s body by testing blood or oral fluids. It can be done as a simple finger prick or a saliva swab, and results can be made available within 20 minutes.
Rapid HIV testing is currently unavailable in dental settings anywhere in the world although the technology has been widely available for a decade. Australians will soon be able to access rapid HIV-testing themselves after the federal government last week announced that it had lifted restrictions preventing the manufacture and sale of oral home-testing kits.
“Dentists are well placed to offer rapid HIV testing because they’re located throughout the community, have ongoing relationships with their patients, and have the necessary training and expertise to recognise systemic diseases that have oral manifestations, such as HIV/AIDS,” says the study’s lead author, Dr Anthony Santella of the University of Sydney Medical School.
The new research finding has important policy implications, according to Dr Santella: “If rapid HIV testing was widely available in dental settings it could help to reduce the spread of the virus by informing people who aren’t aware that they are HIV-positive.
“It’s important that policymakers and other stakeholders consider expanding rapid HIV testing beyond medical and sexual health clinics because the average time from HIV infection to diagnosis in Australia is currently more than three years,” said the Sydney Medical School professor.
“As well, we have fresh evidence that around 45 per cent of dentists feel prepared and willing to perform rapid HIV-testing. This means it would be feasible to offer rapid HIV testing through dental settings, especially in targeted at risk communities.”
Among those saying they’d be willing to undergo rapid HIV testing in a dental setting, 76 per cent preferred an oral saliva swab, 15 per cent preferred a pin prick test, and eight per cent preferred a traditional blood test that draws blood through a needle.
- Sixty per cent of Australians see their dentist once in 12 months with 80 per cent seeing a dentist in the course of 2 years.
- Ten to 20 per cent of people living with HIV are undiagnosed and therefore run the risk of spreading the virus unknowingly.
- The Australian Government’s HIV Strategy aims to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV by 50 per cent by 2015, as a key step towards a 2020 elimination target.
Public Health at the University of Sydney
The public health program at the Sydney Public Health School focuses on the prevention of illness and the promotion of health, with practitioners playing a proactive rather than a reactive role, especially with regard to the coordination of relevant community resources. The program provides the opportunity to develop skills and acquire knowledge essential for the effective practice of public health, including the effective management of community health problems.
Public health a the University of Sydney is open to students from health and non-health backgrounds. Public health is
- preventing disease;
- promoting health; and
- prolonging life.
Program: Master of Public Health
Location: Sydney, New South Wales
Semester intakes: March and July
Duration: 1 year
Application deadline: January 31, 2015 for the March 2015 intake
Entry Requirements: A successful applicant for admission to the Master of Public Health program requires
- a minimum four-year full time degree or equivalent qualification from the University of Sydney or an equivalent qualification; or
- a shorter degree from the University of Sydney or an equivalent qualification, and non-degree professional qualifications and/or substantial relevant experience and/or other relevant qualifications.