Ryan White Dental Clinic Experiences Financial Hardship Due to Increased Patient Load, Lack of Funding
The Ryan White Dental Clinic, a clinic sponsored by the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry for low-income people with HIV/AIDS, is experiencing financial hardship due to an increased patient load and a lack of funding, the Chicago Tribune reports. The clinic, which was established in 1989 and named after the Indiana teenager who gave a face to HIV/AIDS, was originally intended to serve about 60 people with the disease. However, the clinic now has about 2,000 clients after the closure of the Northwestern University Dental School sent a "flood" of new patients. The clinic operates on a budget of $340,000 a year, and Dr. Mario Alves, the clinic director, estimates that it needs about $100,000 more annually to continue operations. However, the state may cut up to $4 million from the school's state funding in next year's budget, an "ominous" development for the clinic, which receives its funding through the school. "We need help. Money, for what we do," Alves said. About half of the clinic's patients only schedule visits when they have mouth pain, but regular screenings and proper dental care are essential to preventing and treating HIV/AIDS-related oral disorders such as infections, warts, abscesses and dry mouth from medication, he said. "The mouth is the chief of the body. Without the mouth, you go nowhere ... But it's also a fragile environment," Alves said, noting that up to 50 different kinds of lesions can occur in the mouth. He added that the clinic also helps "calm" people's fears about living with HIV/AIDS. "Many of them are very scared. I tell them: 'Other people -- with diabetes, heart transplants and other problems -- have to take medications and live a healthy lifestyle. If you do that, you can live as long as they do,'" he said (Anderson, Chicago Tribune, 6/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.