“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”
Dentists shun HIV
Monday, 27 January,
2003, 12:18 GMT
Equipment should be sterilised for all patients
Many dentists are refusing to treat people with HIV even though there is no
risk of transmitting the disease if safety procedures are correctly
Experts have warned that continuing
discrimination may force people with HIV to keep their condition hidden -
which could cause problems if dentists fail to take adequate care.
Research conducted by BBC News Online
found seven out of 30 dentists contacted refused to commit to treating a
person with HIV.
support the right of HIV positive patients to seek dental treatment with
a family dentist
One HIV positive man who found he was
turned away from a private dental practice in west London told of his sense
of "disbelief at being treated in this way by a health professional".
"I honestly thought that dentists in the
country would be better informed. Living with HIV you fear prejudice from
other people, but at least you hope for better from health professionals.
"When it was made clear that I wasn't
welcome it brought home again some of the unique and awful qualities that
are a part of living with this virus.
"The ignorance, the prejudice, the
misunderstandings that aren't associated with any other illness in quite the
Richard Jackson, from Bristol, also had
problems when he told his dentist about his HIV diagnosis.
The dentist said that he was prepared to
offer treatment, but insisted that the duty nurse be informed of Mr
Jackson's HIV status whenever he required an appointment.
What to do if refused treatment
Contact your local
HIV clinic and ask them to recommend a dentist
Contact the General
Dental Council to complain
Inform the Terrence
Higgins Trust helpline on 0845 1221200
Fearing problems with confidentiality, Mr
Jackson said he was not happy about this and was told in that case the
practice could only offer him treatment in an emergency.
When he went back for emergency treatment
some time later, he was told the practice could not find his notes.
Although he did receive treatment, the
dentist told him he would have to speak to the senior partner about further
care, and then never contacted him again.
Mr Jackson told BBC News Online: "I am
very angry. I would have expected health professionals to be a little bit
better informed about the risks involved.
"If they did not want to treat me then at
least they should have been honest, rather than making excuses."
Ronan Gallagher, from London, took legal
action after he was refused treatment.
would have expected health professionals to be a little bit better
informed about the risks involved
Following his diagnosis with HIV, his
regular dentist continued to treat him, but on one occasion was away on
"They asked if I minded seeing somebody
else. I laid down in the chair, and thought that I had better tell the new
dentist about my condition.
"It was almost as if I had punched him in
the face. He turned around picked up my notes and said 'we don't treat
people like you, there are places for people like you to go. If we were to
treat you we would have to close the surgery for an hour afterwards to
With that the dentist scrawled HIV over
the case notes, and promptly banned the surgery's dental hygienist from
treating Mr Gallagher too - even though she had treated him dozens of times
A survey conducted by the HIV charity the
Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) found 40% of people with HIV who were
questioned said they had experienced discrimination at the hands of a
The problem was particularly acute with
dentists because people tended only to seek treatment when they needed it,
and had not built up an ongoing personal relationship in the same way that
they might do with a doctor.
Lisa Power, THT head of policy and
campaigns, said: "Dentists should treat all patients with equal care and
safety, because many people are unaware that they have a transmissible
"The Disability Discrimination Act states
that it is illegal to discriminate against people who are ill through HIV,
either in the workplace or in the delivery of services."
"There are health and safety guidelines
in existence for dentists which, if followed, remove any risk of accidental
transmission not only of HIV but also Hepatitis C and other blood-borne
"Following these guidelines should mean
that no dental surgery needs to refuse treatment or otherwise discriminate
against people with HIV."
Keep it hidden
Ms Power said continuing discrimination
against people with HIV meant that they were less likely to reveal details
of their condition.
"This could lead to real problems with
dentists not taking adequate care," she said.
Many people with HIV have previously been
treated at specialised dental centres.
However, Ms Power said most of these
clinics were no longer in operation due to lack of funding.
A spokesman for the British Dental
Association said: "The BDA supports the right of HIV positive patients to
seek dental treatment with a family dentist.
"There is no reason why they should be
referred to a specialist centre, unless the family dentist feels that the
patient's condition requires specialist treatment.
"Where a dentist refuses to treat a
patient on the grounds of their HIV status, they run the risk of a claim
under disability discrimination legislation and may be found guilty of
professional misconduct by the General Dental Council."