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My Dentist turned me away
Jul 6, 2004

I recently went to a local denist to have by teeth cleaned and to discuss further work needed. I specifically talked to the dentist and told her about by HIV status. She assured me that there would be no problems treating me. I went for my last visit to finish cleaning my teeth, I had not been to the dentist in years so it took 3 visits. I noticed the chair covered in plastic, also the tools. She also did not do what was expected which was another all over cleaning. She only picked at my teeth and polished them. I began to discuss further treatment and she said she needed to talk to me outside where no one could hear. Outside of the office she notified me that the owner of the business would no longer let me be treated there because they were not equiped for patients like myself. I cried all the way home and even the next day when I thought about it. Can I be turned away by a dentist because of my medical status? Can anyone make me feel any better about the way this has mentally effected me.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

I don't know where you are writing from, but apparently HIV/AIDS discrimination is still alive and flourishing there. The comment that the dental office was "not equipped for patients like you" shows not only disgusting discriminatory behavior, but also shocking ignorance coupled with irrational fear. Chances are that office is treating other HIV-positive patients, but just doesn't realize it. In the U.S., "universal precautions" to prevent occupational exposures have been in place for many years and mandated by federal agencies like OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Association). If this dental office is not following these well established procedures, it's not safe for anyone and certainly not the kind of dental office in which you would want to receive care!

One thing that might make you feel better would be to have this office put in writing the reason they are refusing to take care of you. Then send a copy of that info to the state board that regulates the Dental Practice Quality Assurance with a formal letter of complaint. That should do the trick. I'd also suggest you contact your local AIDS service organizations to get a referral to an HIV-savvy dentist in your area. Your HIV specialist physician should also be able to provide you with this information. Try not to be too upset by what happened. Although dentists (and all health care professionals) should certainly know better, irrational fears can lead to completely irrational behavior.

I had a friend who had a similar situation and rather than leave the office quietly, he decided to discuss his HIV status and the office's discriminatory behavior very loudly at the reception desk in the waiting room. He loudly involved all the folks in the waiting room into the conversation. He made sure everyone knew what was happening and loudly proclaimed he would be contacting his lawyer, the newspapers, TV stations, the Better Business Bureau, and even Oprah Winfrey!!! He then stormed out in a very Arnold Schwarzenegger way, yelling, "I'll be back!" and accidentally knocking over several plants in the process. The dental office quickly changed its mind when half the folks in the waiting room left and the other half supported my friend's position!!

Discrimination should never be tolerated.

Good luck.

Dr. Bob



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