The world-wide numbers are frightening: An estimated 36 million people are infected with HIV/AIDS. Every 9 1/2 minutes, an American is infected with the HIV virus. Estimates also show that 20% of the 1 million people infected with the disease are unaware they are infected. What most people don't understand is the importance of an early diagnosis. HIV/AIDS expert Mark Cichocki, R.N., states that "The importance of early diagnosis of HIV can't be overstated. Two-plus decades of HIV and AIDS research has proven that the earlier HIV is diagnosed, the better the prognosis and the likelihood of a long, healthy life."
The unfortunate stigma attached to being HIV positive often interferes with common sense, and ultimately instills a fear that prevents millions of people from obtaining regular HIV testing. The fear of needles and blood work, along with the agonizing wait for the test results, possibly inhibits the importance for the test, and often prevents or delays diagnosis.
If HIV testing was obtainable without the need for a blood sample, would more people be willing to be tested for HIV? According to Ron Ticho, Vice President - Corporate Communications, OraSure Technologies, the OraQuick ADVANCE HIV Test is the first and only FDA-approved HIV test, for use with both oral fluid and blood specimens. "The rapid oral fluid process, in particular, is very fast and easy. The individual simply swabs the testing device, just one time, around the outer upper and lower gums. The testing device is then placed into a vial containing a developer solution and results can be visually read in just 20 minutes," explains Ticho. With results available in just 20 minutes, and an accuracy greater than 99, testing for HIV has become so much easier than most people are prepared to believe.
HIV Testing and Your Dentist
Dr. Catrise Austin, a dentist in New York City, recognized the importance of HIV testing and the knowledge that comes with a diagnosis of HIV. She introduced the OraQuick ADVANCE Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody test to her dental practice, VIP Smiles, and was happy to answer my questions about a dentists role in HIV testing.
What made you choose to introduce rapid oral HIV testing into your dental practice?
I’ve always been interested in learning about HIV/AIDS. I feel the problem is that the general population doesn't think that it can happen to them so many people are not getting tested. In addition, surprisingly, I learned that many private practice physicians do not routinely offer HIV testing to their patients because it requires separate informed consent (thus more paperwork) and the blood work takes extra patient time. The end result is that we have a population with staggering HIV numbers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.1 million people in the United States are infected with HIV, and 232,700 don't know it. The oral cavity is one of several places where HIV infection is found, so dentists have a unique opportunity to identify signs of HIV and incorporate rapid HIV testing of oral fluids in their daily practices. I decided this year that I was going to offer the test to each and every patient in my practice. The OraQuick ADVANCE test is very easy, requires only a swab of the patient’s mouth and the results are available in 20 minutes. Administering the test is fast and we've managed to incorporate it into our practice flow very easily. Knowing as soon as possible enables HIV positive patients to (a) change their behavior to protect others, help prevent the spread of HIV and access the necessary treatment and counseling services which will help them to live a long and healthy lives.