Pennsylvania: Dental Students Expand Outreach Programs for HIV Patients

This article was reported by Penn Current.

Penn Current reported that dental students and faculty have teamed up with Philadelphia FIGHT, the city's largest AIDS advocacy and services organization, to provide much needed dental care to persons with HIV. Although FIGHT offers comprehensive HIV services, there has been a gap in dental care, which can have adverse effects on people with compromised immune systems.

The program came after FIGHT asked dental students who volunteered as interns at the organization for feedback on how to improve services. Recognizing the gap in dental services, dental student Kari Hexem brought up the idea to Executive Director Jane Shull. Two other Penn dental students, Jonathan Vo and Tyler Smith, as well as two faculty in the Division of Community Oral Health have joined the effort.

With initial limited private and federal funding, the program, which started in November, currently offers screenings and education. The goal is to obtain additional funding to offer more comprehensive dental care in the coming years. "To move the project forward, we wanted to begin with educational services and dental screenings as a way to identify patients who needed care and help with their referral for treatment at Penn's dental clinics. We also suggested portable dental equipment, rather than going from zero to a hundred to get a fully functioning clinic off the ground," said Hexem.