Purpose: The goal of oral rapid HIV testing (ORHT) in the dental setting is to identify persons who are unaware of their positive HIV status. The purpose of this study was to describe the experiences of dental hygiene faculty and students who implemented ORHT in university-based dental hygiene clinics and to assess the facilitators and barriers to implementation of ORHT in the dental setting.
Methods: Data were collected via semi-structured interviews with dental hygiene faculty and students who conducted ORHT in three dental clinics located in academic institutions. All interview sessions were audio-recorded and transcribed. An inductive approach informed by grounded theory methodology was used to code data and inform theme development. The interview sessions were completed when conceptual saturation was reached.
Results: Five themes were identified by the study participants consisting of dental hygiene faculty (n= 8) and dental hygiene students (n=14). Participants felt dental hygienists are qualified to administer ORHT, which fits within their scope of practice; dental hygienists have the skills to feel comfortable offering ORHT without judgement; training is needed with ORHT administration, reading/discussing test results, and counseling for those who receive reactive results; most patients were receptive to being offered the ORHT; and patients accepted the ORHT because it was free, quick to administer and receive results, and convenient since they were already in the dental setting.
Conclusion: Results from this study indicate that dental hygienists can play a key role in public health efforts to identify persons who are unaware of their HIV status.