Five percent of dental offices in Los Angeles openly discriminate against people with HIV by refusing to serve them.
Trained testers called 612 dental offices in the city in 2007 and 2008 for the study, conducted by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. Calls were made in English and Spanish by people who said they had private dental insurance ot Denti-Cal, a program tied to California's Medicaid program.
The most frequent excuse from medical professionals refusing to serve people with HIV was that they were ill equipped to deal with the virus. Most dental care providers, 90%, said they were welcoming of HIV-positive patients. The remaining 5% said they needed to institute special provisions.
An earlier study showed that significantly higher numbers of other types
of medical providers refused to serve people with HIV -- 55% of
obstetricians, 46% of skilled nursing facilities, and 25% of plastic
surgeons had blanket policies that discriminated against HIV-positive
The discrimination rates were also higher in areas of high HIV infection rates, neighborhoods with more low-income people, and areas that would serve more people of color. Still, the study's authors hypothesize that the rates of medical bias is higher in other areas across the U.S., despite federal policies barring such discrimination.
"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," study coauthor Brad Sears said in a statement Wednesday.