April 26, 2001
The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recently released a report drafted by University of California and RAND researchers showing that dental conditions linked to HIV infections are twice as likely to go untreated as other health problems related to the disease.
The report also found that uninsured patients with HIV infection are three times as likely to have untreated dental conditions like oral infections and mouth ulcers, as well as untreated medical problems, than those with private health insurance. Medicaid participants encountered more unmet needs than individuals with private insurance.
The study, published in the mid-winter 2001 issue of the Journal of Public Health Dentistry, was based on interviews of HIV patients in a national probability sample in 1996. It concluded that an estimated 58,000 of the 231,000 people treated for HIV disease that year had unmet dental needs, unmet medical needs or both.
Study author Kevin Heslin of UCLA's AIDS Research Training Center estimated that 14.3 percent of HIV patients had unmet dental needs in the six months prior to being interviewed, about 6.2 percent had unmet medical needs, and 5 percent had both. By comparison, data from previous studies of the general population show that 9 percent had unmet dental needs, roughly 5.7 percent had unmet medical needs and 2.5 percent had both. Individuals younger than 50 years old, poor, unemployed, patients living in the South, as well as persons of mixed race, American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, Pacific Islanders, and Asians were generally more likely to report having unmet dental and medical needs.
Patients were categorized as having an unmet dental or medical need if they reported needing but not receiving these services in the last six months. The study did not examine the causes of the unmet needs or seek to identify specific needs.