An HIV test and a dental check-up usually means appointments at two different places.
But some New York dental patients are getting screened for the disease in one sitting—all at their dentist’s office.
“A patient is more likely to see their dentist, because we recommend that they come twice a year every six months,” said Dr. Catrise Austin, who has her own practice in the city. “So the opportunity to identify a newly infected patient is greater.”
Austin, founder of VIP Smiles, is taking the initiative to screen her patients for the infection because she says too many primary-care physicians are not.
For African-Americans especially, who represent the highest at-risk group for HIV with one in 22 in danger of contracting the disease, experts say additional testing sites will help spread awareness.
”[It] creates a much better opportunity for more people to be tested who otherwise wouldn’t even think about it, said C. Virginia Fields, president of the National Black Leadership Commission on Aids.
The procedure is simple and requires only a swab under the upper and lower lips. Dr. Austin says results take about 20 minutes and prove 99.4 percent accurate.
“If I can get more and more dentists to incorporate this service into their routine practice, I’m doing good,” said Dr. Austin, who’s tested hundreds of patients for the disease. ”[...] We’ll hopefully identify more people and stop the spread of the disease.”
She says a concern among most dentists is not getting paid for the HIV exams when their medical doctor can bill it to their insurance.
There is no billable dental code for the exam for dentists yet, but Dr. Austin says she has been offering the test for free as a part of a pilot program since July 2009.
NBC News associate Rima Abdelkader contributed to this report