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Dental Care Stigma and Discrimination Against People Living with HIV/Aids

Author: Zahra Shahriyari Afshar

Unintentional and intentional biases exist within the medical and dental health care system. This bias remains prevalent in many communities, especially for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). The author of Brondani “Stigma around HIV in dental care: Patients' experiences” published in the journal of Canadian Dental Care Association explores qualitative personal experiences of a PLWHA diverse sample who describe their experiences of oral health-related issues and discriminations.

In the paper, individuals recollect their experiences with their healthcare professionals and their demeanours and treatment. Most fear the judgment and the fact that one’s personal information is out of their control, and it's up to the dentist to find the best approach. On the other hand, if individuals feel confident and secure in their healthcare team, they are less likely to feel stressed and are more likely to share information in confidence.

Moreover, many individual’s HIV statuses have caused dental professionals to assume individuals were under the influence of drugs and have led to many discriminatory actions such as “avoiding eye contact, dismissing a request or comment, not shaking the patient’s hand, using scented aerosol spray after the patient left and referring the patient to another professional without fully explaining the reason.”

Nevertheless, PLWHA continue to look for better care and try to overcome many barriers and problems associated with their HIV status. However, reconciliation and understanding do not end at an individual level; it requires a larger scale education and a creation of stigma-free and more knowledgeable dental professionals and prospective dental students. Therefore, Brondani recommends that in order to improve experiences and overall treatment of PLWHA more dentistry schools should both cover ways in which HIV is transmitted and treated and also practice stigma-reducing treatments to allow PLWHA access to optimal dental care services without the fear of judgement and discrimination.


Brondani, M. A., Phillips, C. J., Kerston, P. R., & Moniri, N. R. (2016). Stigma around HIV in dental care: Patients' experiences. Journal (Canadian Dental Association) . Retrieved May 8, 2022, from in_dental_care_Patients'_experiences

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