206605 Access to Oral Health Services for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS in Rural South Carolina: Preliminary Findings of Project Save Our Smiles (SOS)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Amy B. Martin, DrPH , Department of Health Services Policy and Management, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Minnjuan Flournoy, PhD (c) , Institute for Partnerships to Eliminate Health Disparities, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Accessing oral health services can be challenging for many Americans, especially those who are HIV+. The rates of incidence and mortality from HIV infection are disproportionately higher in rural South Carolina than in other urban regions in the state. For persons who are HIV+, some barriers to access include cost, provider shortages, provider liability concerns including unwillingness to treat, and fear of going to the dentist. Additionally, there is a lack of awareness about the importance of regular dental care and the relationship between oral and physical health for persons living with HIV.

As part of the Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Oral Health Initiative, the Sandhills Medical Foundation (SMF) implemented Project Save Our Smiles. Project SOS utilizes an innovative service delivery model to provide oral health care to persons living with HIV in six rural counties in South Carolina. SMF implemented a mobile oral health services program that serves patients, regardless of their HIV status, at its community health center sites. Before enrollment, many participants were out of care and did not have a regular dental care provider. The results indicate that if major systemic barriers to access to oral care are reduced or eliminated, enrollment in a mobile oral health program can be a viable method of providing accessible, quality dental services; thereby reducing oral health emergencies and increasing quality of life in HIV+ persons. Recommendations to further serve patients in need include geographical expansion of the program and continuous patient reassurance to facilitate patient retention.

Learning Objectives:
Identify key community partners and stakeholders in eliminating oral health disparities in rural America Discuss the triumphs and challenges experienced in implementing a mobile oral health services program for persons living with HIV/AIDS in a rural setting Identify barriers that persons living with HIV/AIDS may experience when accessing oral health services

Keywords: Rural Health Care, Oral Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I assisted with the program management and evaluation of this project. Additionally, I conducted the review of literature and performed analyses of this project.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.