Some people believe that dental care is purely cosmetic or even a luxury. What is often misunderstood is that dental care is an important part of staying healthy. Having affordable and regular dental care is vital- especially to the patients at Columbia Oral Health Clinic.
Medical Personnel in the Midlands recognized in the late 1990’s that it was difficult to ward off infection among HIV positive residents because of tooth decay and gum disease. Many private dentists refused to treat persons living with HIV. Concerned citizens rallied to form the COHC. In 1998, the COHC joined forces with the Women’s Shelter to establish a dental clinic. Currently, the COHC is the only oral health clinic specifically serving the uninsured HIV/AIDS population in South Carolina, and one of the few in the nation.
According to Christopher Lee, Executive Director of COHC, dental health is incredibly important for those who are living with HIV/AIDS due to the nature of their medication, and the stigma that follows the illness.
“Not only do those with HIV/AIDS have a harder time fighting off infections than others, but many don’t realize that their medication requires them to eat. When they take the medication without food they become violently ill and stop using the medication altogether. Once we are able to help them get on a treatment plan they are able to start eating again and get them back to a healthy state,” Lee said.
This year the Foundation provided funding for the clinic to put toward general patient care. In the past, the Foundation has helped fund equipment upgrades such as a new Panoramic X-ray machine, allowing for faster and easier patient appointments.