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England's chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said it was time to scrap "outdated rules".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She said: "It is time we changed these outdated rules which are sometimes counter-productive and limit people's choices on how to get tested or treated early for HIV.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 285.

    absolute crazy

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    "Serious shortfalls" were noted, such as blood-stained equipment, filthy curtains, staff not cleaning their hands" - see this week's news report about Whipps Cross Hospital, NHS. To protect patients, basic disease prevention practices and hygiene urgently need to be implemented. This needs to be done NOW - before relaxing other controls!

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    @ Avalon

    "The logical extension". Nice way to brand "extremism". My comments were going no further than where they were. So your branding is therefore null and void.

    I think that maybe you should watch the film "Kids", then you will see how it can destroy peoples' lives.

    Just because treatments extend HIV patients' lives, doesn't mean that it is not a life destroyer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    @Denaris When was the last time your bodily fluids mixed with the bodily fluids of an NHS worker? It amazes me that some people are stuck in the mindset of the 1980s AIDS scare mongering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    I feel uncomfortable about the idea of someone with HIV treating me.

    A few years ago a skilled army doctor jabbed himself after taking blood from me.

    It just shows experienced professionals can make mistakes.

    hospital staff work long tiring shifts.

    HIV only lives about 10 seconds out of body so maybe if the staff dont deal with sharp objects.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    I'm more worried about the growth in TB than medical staff with HIV...

    One of the many terrible and utterly foreseeable consequences of mass immigration from developing countries has been the re-appearance of TB in the UK.

    NHS staff with HIV are nowhere near as big a threat as free movement of TB infected people - who should be stopped from entering the country, or expelled if they do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.


    "Medical professionals are much more likely to contract HIV from a patient.. Should they refuse to treat HIV positive people?"

    You're right, but doctors CHOOSE to do this job - helping the sick and they're aware of the risks, so of course doctors shouldn't refuse to treat HIV patients. But patients have a right to choose too - why take an unnecessary risk ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    "It may reduce infection rates if it reduces stigma promoted by fools!"

    ..and if we remove the social stigma completely aids will be magically erradicated. Why did we bother with doctors and scientists when all we needed to cure aids was a big enough focus group and a leaflet campaign?

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    261. bigotted, ignorant, uneducated comments
    Winner of the "describe HYS in 5 words or less" competition.

    Amazing how quick people are to denounce the opinion of a trained medical professional
    Welcome to HYS! Keep an eye out for the made-up pseudoscience and conspiracy theories with links to laughable websites.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    This is outrageous and whoever has made this decision needs to be sacked immediately and charged with some kind of public endangerment offence. It will completely disingigrate any public trust in the health service and will be a matter of time before the first infections are known.

  • Comment number 275.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    265.Denaris - "How some of these bizarre decisions come about is beyond me. I would rather stay sick and take my chances than risk certain death at the hands if a disease ridden AIDS infested NHS worker drone"

    The lifting of the Ban and this Topic is about Healthcare Staff with HIV, not AIDS

    Many people don't seem to know the difference

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    I work in the field of HIV in the NHS and have become very aware of how much stigma there still is towards HIV positive people. It's particularly unfair, since we now know so much about HIV and can keep the virus "undetectable" in people. But it's not surprising some are ill informed, as you still see in the media in 2013 stories mixing up HIV and Aids as if they were the same thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    I don't wish to treat people with infectious conditions as pariahs, but I can't believe that the NHS can't find useful and productive and satisfying roles for such people that don't involve even the smallest risk to patients.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    I am sorry, but it is my body and my life and I would like to know if my doctor or dentist has HIV (or any other transmittable disease ) where their is a chance of being infected (even if slim)
    Again the majority have to bend to accommodate a vocal minority

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    @244. WiL

    Homosexuals are Not Paedophiles. To place them into one box as you have tried to do shows everyone that you have not thought about what you are saying before saying it but instead have based your opinion upon bigotry and fear.

    Thankfully you belong to a dying breed

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    My only point would be, that to all the people commenting that the risk of infection is tiny, while this may be true, would you be comfortable being operated on by a person if you knew they were infected with HIV.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    A HIV positive person, who is successfully on treatment, will have 'undetectable' amounts of virus in their blood. This decision will allow all NHS staff to get tested without the fear of losing their job - therefore enabling treatment to be actioned, if necessary, and actually creating a safer situation for the patient in the long term.

  • Comment number 267.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    "227. ConnorMacLeod
    I disagree. When crossing the road e.g. you know the risk of a car going out of control"

    No you don't.

    "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 ?"

    There is a much greater chance of HIV infected health workers doing this than most drivers observing the Highway Code.


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