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England's chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said it was time to scrap "outdated rules".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She said: "It is time we changed these outdated rules which are sometimes counter-productive and limit people's choices on how to get tested or treated early for HIV.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 245.

    179. Ukip

    I think that is the right of the individual to make that choice, not for a government to force that on other people. But then again we really live in a dictatorship.

    What a thoughtless, ridiculous statement.
    Perhaps a spell in North Korea, or even Cairo at the moment might disabuse you of that view?

  • Comment number 244.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    She can say all this crap until a child of hers is a patient & then all her thoughts would b out of the window. HIV medical staff have to pace in a surgery theatre or lab testing unit as well as in a dental practice. They should be nowhere neear vulnerable patients who go to see a practioner for their wellbeing. This woman should be sacked. Resignation is not an option for this blunder.

  • Comment number 242.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    "211. peter
    A decision, no doubt, made under the human rights act"

    There is no mention of the HRA in the article though if the government no longer had a public health reason to impose these restrictions but continued to do so, doubtless a case under the HRA could be made.

    The HRA protects YOU from the arbitrary power of the state. It is not the root of all evils as UKIP would assert.

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    I have only scanned through the comments but would like to ask how many of the people commenting actually know their HIV status.

    Maybe the other question is what risk medical staff are putting themselves when they treat an undiagnosed HIV +ve person.

    Should they instist on compulsory testing before any treatment is given.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Hepatitis C is more virulant in a dead body than it is a live one. . . . .I don't know if it's the same for HIV and AIDS. . . . . .But there are so many misinformed people on here today believing they are 'informed', and personally speaking, I'd like ALL of the facts before me, not just the ones 'they' want you to know before I could make such a decision with my own life

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    221.Clarity - "FACT: NHS nurses and doctors often fail to use basic disease prevention practices.........."

    Two questions:

    A/. By what criteria are you judging "often" by & how is that figure a reasonable one to use....????

    B/. Where is the data that allows you to use the criteria you have chosen to make such a definitive claim as calling it "fact"....????

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    a totally unworkable proposal . i mean seriously ? who is going to monitor all these staff with HIV to make sure they are taking their medication . ludicrous suggestion by the NHS management

    our family has just lost a dear friend who died as a result of NHS policy of buying unscreened blood from the U.S. in the 1980s

  • Comment number 236.

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

  • Comment number 235.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Presumably we can now all look forward to a significant increase in standards of hygiene within the NHS?

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    Is this a PC initiative aimed at blowing sunshine at the groups most likely to be infected with this transmissible and still potentially fatal disease? Then again, there is a perception issue of what the patient might think and their confidence in the medical establishment. Has anyone asked them?

  • Comment number 232.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    It's no worse than NHS workers with Hep C being allowed to do these same things, which they are. Hep C is even more infectious, and less treatable than HIV, so why it's taken this long for the rules to change makes no sense to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    i would hope that if someone did contract HIV through this policy then Prof Dame Sally Davies would be held responsible.
    If, in return, you are willing to be held responsible for people being unable to access healthcare due to a shortage of staff?

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    Before we continue with the "OMG they have HIV get them away from me" shouting, does anyone actually know what the medical facts are? The drug therapy, the undetectable amount etc.

    I say fair play. If it's medically safe, why not? Lessen the burden that people with HIV have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    @ 225 how about a nice yellow star? Then we know for sure who the dirty ones are.
    I wish more people understood the science behind this rather than resorting to prejudice and assumptions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    210.Total Mass Retain

    I disagree. When crossing the road e.g. you know the risk of a car going out of control is always present and you can if you choose, wait for a break in the traffic to cross or take other appropriate action to minimise risk.
    The risk of HIV infection is v. small - assuming procedures are followed correctly and safeguards are in place but what if this doesn't happen ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    @220.Gee is not really here,

    are you suggesting that anyone found to have HIV is rounded up and put in a modern day leper colony. What about those that dont know they have HIV? Should everyone be tested for HIV so we can then tattoo those with it so everyone knows how unlcean they are and ship them off to the HIV colonies for the rest of thier lives.


Page 36 of 48


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