New Resource Highlights Innovations in Oral Health Care for People Living With HIV/AIDS

woman in dentist's chair

I would like to call your attention to an excellent new resource that can help advance our efforts to improve health outcomes for people living with HIV: "Innovations in Oral Health Care for People Living With HIV/AIDS," a special supplement to Public Health Reports (the official journal of the U.S. Public Health Service).

This PHR supplement presents findings from the Innovations in Oral Health Care Initiative, which involved 15, five-year demonstration projects supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration's HIV/AIDS Bureau with resources from the Ryan White Care Act's Special Projects of National Significance. The findings presented in this supplement show that innovative program models can engage and retain people who are living with HIV/AIDS into oral health-care services in both urban and non-urban settings. The articles in this special issue represent important additions to our body of knowledge about oral health care for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Good oral health and good general health are inseparable. As discussed at length in the Surgeon General's 2000 report, Oral Health in America, oral health is essential for general health and well-being across the lifespan. It is especially critical for people who are living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) because inadequate oral health care can undermine the success of HIV treatment regimens, nutritional intake, and health outcomes. Oral infections also may spread to other parts of the body, which can be particularly dangerous for individuals with compromised immune systems. (Read more about this topic on the AIDS.gov HIV/AIDS Basics page "Oral Health Issues.")

As Surgeon General Regina Benjamin notes in her introduction to the new Public Health Reports supplement, "Inadequate oral health care can undermine HIV treatment and diminish quality of life, yet many individuals living with HIV are not receiving the necessary oral health care that would optimize their treatment."

To help us address this and improve health outcomes for PLWHA, I encourage you to read the supplement and share it with your colleagues and constituencies.

Ronald Valdiserri, M.D., M.P.H., is deputy assistant secretary for health, infectious diseases, and director of the Office of HIV/AIDS Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.