Dental Tribune International

Saudi Arabian dental students exhibit negative attitude towards HIV patients

By Dental Tribune International
December 01, 2012

ABHA, Saudi Arabia: New research has found that a considerable number of dental students in Saudi Arabia showed a negative attitude towards treating patients with HIV/AIDS. Although their knowledge on HIV/AIDS was good overall, this was not associated with willingness to treat patients with the disease.

Through a questionnaire submitted anonymously, researchers from the King Khalid University’s Department of Family and Community Medicine conducted a survey among 363 male students aged 20 to 29 at the university’s dental school throughout the 2011/2012 academic year.

The total mean score for HIV/AIDS knowledge among the participants was 62.7 per cent and most of the students were aware of the oral lesions associated with HIV, they reported. However, more than one-third (34.7 per cent) had only insufficient knowledge and only little over 28 per cent of the students surveyed claimed that they had adequate knowledge regarding the immunodeficiency disease. In addition, the researchers observed that about 90 per cent of the participants had a negative attitude towards HIV/AIDS patients.

Moreover, almost two-thirds of the participants were concerned about the potential infection risk and only about 40 per cent stated that they would be willing to treat HIV/AIDS patients, mainly owing to a lack of knowledge regarding possible transmission of the disease.

The findings demonstrate that the university’s male dental students may not be adequately prepared for treating patients with HIV/AIDS, the researchers said. Thus, they recommended an improvement to the curriculum with regard to HIV/AIDS-related topics.

However, they emphasised that the general low willingness to treat HIV-positive patients in the study might be because only male students were surveyed. In contrast to the present findings, an Iranian study published in 2009 that was conducted primarily among female dental students reported attitudes that were more positive. Female students were excluded from the present study owing to the conservative community regulations in Saudi Arabia, the researchers explained.

“As the number of people with HIV/AIDS increases, the need of these individuals for medical care, including dental care, will increase, so dental practitioners will be required to enhance their knowledge of the disease and its oral manifestations,” the researchers said.

According to the 2009 figures from the Saudi Arabian ministry of health, there are over 15,200 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country.

The study was published in the October issue of the International Journal of Public Health and Epidemiology.

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