Ban lifted for NHS staff with HIV


England's chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, says the risk to patients is "negligible"

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The government is to lift a ban that stops healthcare staff with HIV performing certain medical procedures.

Healthcare staff in England, Wales and Scotland having HIV treatment will be able to take part in all tasks, including surgery and dentistry.

England's chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said it was time to scrap "outdated rules".

Self-testing kits for HIV will also be legalised from April 2014, with the aim of improving early diagnosis.

Prof Davies said many of the UK's HIV policies were designed in the 1980s and had been left behind by scientific advances and effective treatments.

'Simpler system'

She told the BBC that patients controlling their infection with medication were not a danger: "The risk is negligible and I would accept that for myself, for my family and I think it's right."

She said: "It is time we changed these outdated rules which are sometimes counter-productive and limit people's choices on how to get tested or treated early for HIV.

Case Study

Allan Reid had to give up dental practice after being diagnosed as HIV positive in 2008.

It ended his 17 years in the profession and he says it led to his house being repossessed.

"I was aware at that time that there was effective treatment that would make the risk of infection non-existent.

"So of course you do feel resentful that the policy has not caught up with the science and you've had to give up your chosen career."

He said he hoped that himself and other healthcare workers will be allowed to return to their careers.

"What we need is a simpler system that continues to protect the public through encouraging people to get tested for HIV as early as possible and that does not hold back some of our best healthcare workers because of a risk that is more remote than being struck by lightning."

Around the world, there have been four cases of health workers infecting patients, none of which was in the UK.

Under current guidelines healthcare staff with HIV must not carry out "exposure prone procedures" - where the worker's blood could contaminate the patient's open tissues.

These procedures include those where the worker's gloved hands may be in contact with sharp instruments, needle tips or sharp pieces of the patient's bone or teeth, according to the UK advisory panel for healthcare workers infected with bloodborne viruses.

Under the new system, healthcare workers with HIV will be allowed to undertake all procedures if they are on effective combination anti-retroviral drug therapy.

They must also have an undetectable viral load of HIV in their body, and must be regularly monitored.

Start Quote

Advances in medication have transformed what it means to live with HIV, and it's great to see regulations starting to catch up”

End Quote Sir Nick Partridge Terrence Higgins Trust

Public Health England will set up a confidential register holding data on infected workers.

About 110 staff currently working in the NHS, including doctors and midwives, are covered by the current regulations, Prof Davies added.

The change applies in England, Wales and Scotland, but does not yet apply in Northern Ireland, which will make an announcement at a later date.


Deborah Jack, chief executive of the National Aids Trust, welcomed the new policy for being "based on up-to-date scientific evidence and not on fear, stigma or outdated information".

Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "Advances in medication have transformed what it means to live with HIV, and it's great to see regulations starting to catch up."

About 100,000 people in the UK are living with HIV, although experts say a quarter of those who are infected do not know they have it.

In 2011, there were around 6,000 new diagnoses of HIV in the UK.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Excellent decision based on the latest scientific evidence avialable. The tub thumping brigade have clearly not even read this article which makes it quite clear that there must be an "undetectable viral load of HIV" tied in with "effective combination anti-retroviral drug therapy." and then reviewed regularly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    '.....Around the world, there have been four cases of health workers infecting patients, none of which were in the UK......'

    Might this be because of the 'outdated rules' and ban making sure that number stayed at zero ???

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    couldn't care less about this tbh, I'm just laughing at all the scared ignorant peope that seem to think doctors treat people with their infected blood just flying everywhere, the reason i'm scared of hospitals is the diseases other patients have, which includes HIV and aids, they're the ones you needs to worry about, no the doctors and nurses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    @Tim 70 & 75 Total Mass Retain

    Why are you talking about risks in everday life??????

    Read my post again and work out what the zero risk refers to, given that the subject is about the possibility of HIV infection.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Fair enough, but surely the patient should be told that they are being treated by someone with aids, then they have the choice of accepting this or asking to be treated by someone who does not have aids. Once more, the rights and welfare of a narrow minority are being put before the rights of the majority without any consultation or choice being offered.

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 99.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    @21 nutgone; so if the only surgeon who could save your life had HIV you'd decline?? ignorant fool

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.


    Public sector health is always run by the lowest IQ people in the system.

    Avoid if you want to live long.

    Start doing your own research and you will soon realise that 'Doctors' are just parrots with big pensions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    So we are told by a Senior Government appointee that "The risk is negligible"

    1. Since when do we believe the government?
    2. Negligible means a risk so small that it can be disregarded. It doesn't mean there is NO risk.

    What does that mean in real numbers?
    1 case in 10,000?
    How about 1 case in 100,000?

    Fine, but if I become that 1 person, I will be suing this complacent woman for zillions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    An undetectable viral load means it cannot be transmitted. The risk will probably be zero as the NHS plan tough checks to ensure staff are taking their medication. The 4 cases from outside the UK probably occurred in health services with less stringent monitoring - and before the current generation of drugs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.


    I don't really care if my mecahnic or plumber has HIV, since he's not opening me up and doing microsurgery. My doctor on the other hand.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    I think it should be a personal choice. . . . . . .You need treatment. . . . .You are told your assigned consultant/surgeon has HIV. . . . . .You make an informed choice as to wether you wish to be treated by them.. . . . . Simple as that. . . . .It should be a personal choice, and either way, you shouldn't be judged on your decision. It's your life

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    This is fantastic news, people with HIV, are no greater risk to me than anyone else... Last time I was in hospital, the nurses and Drs wore protective gloves and used sterilised equipment...

    There is no risk in my eyes, as they didn't inject themselves first, then inject me... hahahaha

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Woe betide you if as a patient you demand sight of certification the medical staff are free of HIV or Hepatitis.
    This is not gay bashing but is a cover enabling NHS Management to employ more foreign staff.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Can't say I am impressed or even like it. If I go into hospital and contract HIV through my stay, do I sue the hospital trust or do I sue the ministers who implement this decision?

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    The ignorance surround this is shocking. HIV is not an exclusive condition to medical professionals, it affects people in all walks of life. As my wife works in the dental industry, I am well aware of the precautions they take to minimise all infections, not only for patients but also to protect themselves. There will be many other industries/professions who won't be as diligent..

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    In response to 31 Kaybee. It doesn't matter whether these people chose to become HIV positive. THEY ARE! It doesn't matter whether drugs are improving for them. Practically zero is NOT ZERO, so why allow the risk?! Or if and when it happens do we say "Oh sorry"!!??!

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Do we all carry MRSA?

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    79: This isn't about the gay community though it's about those with HIV. Did you not read the article or do you just not understand?


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