This past February, Dr. Frank Roberts from University of Washington’s (UW) School of Dentistry, was invited to give a talk at the 2023 KEMRI Annual Scientific and Health (KASH) conference. The KASH conference is an annual event organized by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI). KEMRI is a leading medical research organization in Africa that conducts research on various health issues, including infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, health systems research, and public health. The conference brings together scientists, researchers, policymakers, and other stakeholders from the health sector to discuss and share the latest research findings, innovations, and best practices in health research.
Dr. Robert’s presentation topic was focused on the interaction between HIV and periodontal diseases. Periodontal disease (gum disease) is an inflammatory condition that affects the tissues and bone that support the teeth. It is caused by a bacterial infection and can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. HIV infection can increase the risk of developing periodontal disease and can also make the disease more severe. Research has shown that people with HIV are more likely to have periodontal disease than those without HIV. This may be due to the fact that HIV weakens the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off the bacterial infection that causes periodontal disease. In addition, some antiretroviral medications used to treat HIV can cause dry mouth, which can increase the risk of developing other oral health problems including caries (cavities). Periodontal disease can also have an impact on HIV disease progression, with studies suggesting that periodontal disease may lead to increased HIV viral load and decreased T-cell counts, which are key indicators of HIV disease progression. Fortunately, current treatment strategies to control HIV infection (HAART, etc.) also reduce the ravages of HIV-periodontitis. Dr. Roberts lectured to physicians, nurses, and other Kenyan healthcare workers on the importance of oral health examinations and interventions to improve general health.
Dr. Roberts is the Associate Dean for Regional Affairs, Acting Chair of the Department of Periodontics, and is the Program Director for the Regional Initiatives in Dental Education (RIDE) program at the University of Washington. He also serves as the Staff Periodontist for the Seattle Veterans Administration Dental Clinic. He accompanied the University of Washington and University of Nairobi’s TABASAMU research group to Kenya to meet with key project stakeholders, assist with trainee focus groups, and attend the KASH conference.