Policies and protocols for preventing transmission of HIV infection in oral health care in South Africa

Ogunbodede, E, Rudolph M.  2003.  Policies and protocols for preventing transmission of HIV infection in oral health care in South Africa, 2003/01/01. SADJ : journal of the South African Dental Association = tydskrif van die Suid-Afrikaanse Tandheelkundige Vereniging. 57:469-75.


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection constitutes an unparalleled public health challenge. The unique nature of most oral health procedures, instrumentation and patient-care settings requires specific strategies and protocols aimed at preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS between oral health care providers and patients, as well as between patients themselves. The present study investigated the level of information and training about protocols and policies for preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS in oral health care settings in South Africa. The data collection techniques utilised available information, in-depth interviews and an open-ended questionnaire. The respondents were 20 purposively selected key informants who were senior officers for HIV/AIDS programmes and/or oral health organisations. Sixteen (80%) of the respondents reported that there were no existing oral health policies on HIV/AIDS in their health care institutions or organisations. None of the interviewees knew of any specific protocols on HIV/AIDS in the oral health care setting that emanated from South Africa. In addition, none of the dental professional associations had established an infection control committee or a support system for members who might become infected with HIV and develop AIDS. Territorial boundaries existed between sectors within the medical disciplines, as well as between the medical and oral health disciplines. Numerous general impediments were identified, such as prejudice, denial and fear, inadequate training and/or information about the infection, lack of representation and resources for policy planning, a lack of interest from the business sector, and approaching HIV/AIDS in the workplace as a 'one-time issue' Other obstacles identified included unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, disempowerment of women and inadequate communication of policies to service providers. Additional issues raised included the migrant labour systeM, complexities of language and culture, the large unstructured sex industry, high prevalence of sexually transmitted infections and lack of funding. All of these have an impact on oral health. Future policy directions identified included 'increasing access to HIV information and postexposure prophylaxis' 'shift towards care and support for those living with HIV/AIDS with emphasis on community and home-based care' and 'improving intersectoral co-ordination and collaboration'. The study demonstrated gaps in availability and access to policies and protocols on HIV/AIDS by managers and health workers. Specific strategic recommendations are made for oral health.