Do you talk to your dentist about your sex life?

Do you talk to your dentist about your sex life?

At Positive Life we know that a HIV diagnosis is not the death sentence it once was, however, we also know that the uniquely associated stigma and ignorance around the condition is still alive and thriving in Northern Ireland.

A recent incident experienced by one of our service users goes some way to highlighting this.

We’ll call him Bob.

Bob attended his community dentist a few weeks ago – in November 2020 – for what, in dental terms, was a pretty routine procedure. He’s been registered with this dentist for many years and they are aware of his HIV status.

Bob left the surgery thinking that the treatment had been pretty straight forward. However, later that day, he received a call from the GUM Clinic asking for his permission to share details of his current HIV status with the dentist surgery as there had been a needle stick incident during his appointment.

Later still, Bob received a call from the surgery, advising him about the needle stick issue and asking some further questions which included –

  • Do you have sex with men?
  • When was the last time you had sex?
  • How did you contract HIV?

At his next follow up appointment, a week or so later, Bob was advised that he no longer fits the criteria to attend this surgery and should look for another dentist.

I have some questions too…..

  • Did the surgery breach patient confidentiality when they contacted the GUM clinic? Should Bob not have been the first call?
  • What do the surgery Health & Safety protocols say about reporting the needle stick issue? Should that not have been reported at the time?
  • What does Bob’s sexuality or sex life have to do with his dental treatment? And how is how he contracted HIV relevant to his dental treatment?
  • Why is Bob being discharged by the practice?

Bob’s experience as a result of ignorance is not unique and if we’re to end stigma in NI for people affected by HIV we need investment in education and awareness raising that cuts across all our health care providers and sections of our community.

And while Positive Life continue to work for that to happen, my final question is

  • How soon can Positive Life provide a training session for the staff team at this practice?