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England's chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said it was time to scrap "outdated rules".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She said: "It is time we changed these outdated rules which are sometimes counter-productive and limit people's choices on how to get tested or treated early for HIV.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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  • Comment number 265.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    Would you let a HIV infected doctor operate on you, knowing he has HIV and may infect you if there is an accident.

    As patient we have to worry about NHS underfunding, undertrained staff, MRSA and half a dozen other super bacteria, as well as the original reason why we went into surgery in the first place. We don't need another risk factor

    This is equality going too far. It's people's life here

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    Sheer hypocrisy. Aids is a tragedy and I have every sympathy for those suffering - but - successive govts bring in severe penalties for those not meeting increasingly higher standards with reduced resources and if they accept this then they are themselves putting people at risk. No matter how negligible the risk is still there. Suppose it could save on pensions though!

  • Comment number 262.

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

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    Comment number 261.

    190. Most people are in hospital to be cured of diseases and injuries - not to have more threatening ailments thrust upon them.

    A little over dramatic, wouldn't you say? Nothing is being THRUST upon you. Honestly, I want to bash my head against my keyboard in response to the bigotted, ignorant, uneducated comments on here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    There are some body written in comments they are not happy with.

    HIV- risk very less, 5mls blood with high virus load injected can only cause disease. With treatment can lead a normal life.Can live longer.

    Hep B-easy to catch, immunization available, not treated death within a month.
    Hep C- no vaccines available, 1/10 of pin head blood will transmit, highly lethal.

    HEP-C Dangerous.

  • Comment number 259.

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

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    Comment number 258.

    220 The first rule of eradicating a virus is containment. With this ban lifting, however low the chances actually are, there is now a greater risk of HIV being transmitted.
    Do you really believe that the numbers who will be affected in this way will have a measurable (let alone significant) effect on the transmission of HIV? It may reduce infection rates if it reduces stigma promoted by fools!

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    The people making these kind of decisions don't use the nhs. This is for the pleb class (most of us)

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Amazing how quick people are to denounce the opinion of a trained medical professional who obvious has a pretty decent amount of competency in favour of their own untrained and uninformed ones.

    It might surprise people but somehow I doubt she wants to infect people. Maybe what she's saying is right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    We all take unavoidable risks getting to the hospital, and on what happens to us when we get there. To me this means we should not accept risk that can be avoided. Looks like PC or and/or the result of pressure group lobbying. Never mind that, put the patient first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    All HNS staff who carry out "invasive procedures" should be regularly checked and monitored for any infectious diseases such as Hep C, HIV etc. I see no reason whatsoever to allow anyone carrying an infectious disease to be allowed to operate on a patient. The cost to the NHS of even 1 patient getting infected, in subsequent treatment & probable court action makes it a pointless PR stunt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    FACT: NHS nurses and doctors often fail to use basic disease prevention practices... I have first-hand experience. Multiple medical facilities in different regions, over the course of several years. Shocking lack of basic modern day disease prevention practices. Do a Google search for 'blood, nurse didn't wear gloves' to also see how many other people in the UK are noticing this...

  • Comment number 252.

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

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    Comment number 251.

    Maybe I'm cynical but this smells of unsubtle germ warfare by the corr(uptable) classes, they who can afford private HIV free healthcare staff. What next? Cholera free water but only for those who can afford it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    Is it correct for a nurse with a communicable disease to be looking after sick people? A nurse with influenza would not be allowed any where near patients.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    If the number of medical staff affected by this is so tiny you have to wonder why they are changing the rules.

    That its an acceptable risk on the grounds of staff shortages is therefore idiotic, as the number of extra staff made available is so small. Therefore is the tiny risk worth the tiny extra staff? Maybe the same chance as being struck by lightening but tell that to someone who has been

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    usual PC brigade without any common sense. No doubt the Guardian approves

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    Will these HIV staff have an identifying badge and will the patients have an option to choose whether they want to be treated by someone who is HIV positive."


    Medical professionals are much more likely to contract HIV from a patient, for example via a needlestick injury, than the other way around. Should they refuse to treat HIV positive people?

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

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

    In an environment that is based upon minimising all risks why introduce a new one?

    Add to that the amount of Agency Staff the NHS uses and the poor quality control of these staff and you have a recipe for disaster

    If a single person is infected because of this decision it is one person to many


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