EIOH Awarded Grant to Assess Comorbidities and Understand Barriers to Care for People with HIV/AIDS

Oct. 9, 2023
red ribbon formed by red painted hands

A new grant awarded to Eastman Institute for Oral Health, part of the University of Rochester Medical Center, will help get to the bottom of a longstanding problem in a first-of-its-kind U.S. study.

For people living with HIV/AIDS and who also have psychiatric and dental comorbidities, the result is often treatment gaps, diagnostic complexities, increased healthcare costs and poorer outcomes, compared to the general population.

Previous studies have identified barriers to dental care in this population, including ability to pay, dental anxiety, and transportation. Patients, HIV program directors, case managers and administrators are key stakeholders in understanding patients living with HIV or AIDS’ use of dental and mental health services.

Dr. Sangeeta Gajendra

The National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research-funded study will examine factors associated with referrals to dental and mental health services. Comorbidity prevalence and patient and staff perceptions of successful referral factors will also be explored. In addition, patient self-management strategies and patient perception of case management will be studied.

This study, Addressing Dental and Psychiatric Comorbidities: Screening and Referrals of HIV/AIDS Patients, may help improve and increase successful referrals to dental and mental health treatment, leading to decreased morbidity in this population.

EIOH’s Community Dentistry Clinical Chief and Professor Sangeeta Gajendra, DDS, MPH, MS, and Scott McIntosh, PhD, professor, Public Health Sciences with the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, will lead a multi-disciplinary team of experts from the University of Rochester departments of Dentistry, Public Health Sciences, Psychiatry, and Internal Medicine.

doctor's arm and hand reaching over to comfort patient by touching patient's hand

“People living with HIV/AIDS are understudied and underserved with respect to both dental and mental health services,” said Dr. Gajendra. “This innovative mixed-methods approach will provide the much-needed evidence to effectively address these challenges for both patients and the dental and mental health professionals who are eager to help improve access to care.”

The ultimate goal is to connect people living with HIV/AIDS to a dental home and to mental health services and thus help improve their quality of life.