Published December, 2011

HIV Discrimination in Dental Care: Results of a Discrimination Testing Study In Los Angeles County, Brad Sears, Christian Cooper, Fariba S. Younai, and Tom Donohoe, The Williams Institute (December 2011)

This study measured the level of HIV-related discrimination among dentists in Los Angeles County. Researchers from the Williams Institute contacted 612 dentists' offices in 2007 and 2008 to assess their policies regarding treatment of people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA). The authors found that HIV discrimination is lower in dental care than in other health care services in Los Angeles County. However, other key findings reflect disproportionate levels of HIV-related discrimination toward particular communities and based on geographic location.

For example, levels of discrimination were found to be twice as high for PLWHA who had Denti-Cal insurance, a public benefit for low-income patients that was largely discontinued in California in 2009, and were higher in areas of the county with higher rates of HIV, with more low-income people, people of color and women among those with HIV. Researchers also found that 5% of the offices contacted had an illegal policy of refusing dental services to any PLWHA, and that another 5% indicated that they would treat patients with HIV or AIDS differently than other patients. Discrimination was higher among older dentists and dentists who did not go to dental school in the United States.

These findings demonstrate the intersection of HIV discrimination with other forms of discrimination based on race, gender, and socio-economic status, and also provide evidence of the need for targeted education initiatives to ensure equal access and non-discriminatory treatment for PLWHA.