OBJECTIVE: To investigate the problems in seeking dental care faced by HIV-positive individuals in Italy. METHODS: A multicenter observational study was performed by distributing an anonymous self-administered questionnaire to patients of six public healthcare facilities specialized in the treatment of individuals with HIV infection. The questions concerned personal data potentially correlated with discrimination, the patient-dentist relationship before and after HIV diagnosis, and the reasons for seeking dental care in public facilities. We also evaluated the patients' discomfort in the patient-dentist relationship after HIV diagnosis, performing univariate and multivariate analyses. RESULTS: Of the 1,500 questionnaires distributed; 883 were filled-out completely. A total of 630 persons received dental care after HIV diagnosis: 209 (33.2%) did not tell the dentist that they were seropositive. Of those who did, 56 were refused care. For patients treated by a private dentist, having been treated by the same dentist before diagnosis was a risk factor for great discomfort in the patient-dentist relationship (P < 0.002). Being treated in public facilities was associated with having received dental care after HIV diagnosis (P < 0.001) and a primary school education (P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: There exist episodes of discrimination on the part of some dentists, and a relatively high proportion of HIV-positive persons do not disclose their seropositivity to the dentist. Dentists should be provided with training for promoting both ethically acceptable practices and suitable clinical management of HIV-positive persons.