December 8, 2006
The US Department of Health and Human Services awarded a $2 million, five-year demonstration grant to Tenderloin Health (TH) to provide critical dental care for HIV/AIDS patients.
TH's partner agency is the Tom Waddell Health Center, which offers a dental clinic a few hours each week. TWHC works with the Native American Health Center (NAHC) in San Francisco, which also received an HHS grant to create model oral health care programs for people with HIV/AIDS. Both awards from the Special Projects of National Significance totaled more than $6.5 million, with support for the clinics to work together.
TH, which serves 1,800 clients, was created earlier this year from a merger between the Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center and Continuum. Its goal is to be a "one-stop shop" for health services. TH needs to match the grant with $120,000 annually to operate the program, expected to launch next year. The federal grant amounts to $400,000 a year, said Executive Director Tracy Brown.
Many dental specialists do not accept Medicare or Medicaid, said Caroline Brown, dental director of programs and development for NAHC, which serves primarily HIV-positive Native American and Latino residents of the Mission District. The exception is an office in San Jose. If patients cannot travel there, they are referred to San Francisco General Hospital for tooth extractions and other specialized services.
Routine oral health care can detect early and advanced HIV-related symptoms such as leukoplakia, candida, oral cancer and other problems. HIV increases teeth and gum care problems and infections.
"The health department is thrilled," said Samantha Steven, director of dental services for the Department of Public Health. "There is a huge need for these services."