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England's chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said it was time to scrap "outdated rules".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She said: "It is time we changed these outdated rules which are sometimes counter-productive and limit people's choices on how to get tested or treated early for HIV.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 325.

    ...but no smoking on hospital grounds, despite the risk to non-smokers being zero or negligible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    So the system we have is working and people aren't getting infected with HIV thanks to careless medical staff (and after the last 12 months, I don't think many of us have the image of the unflappable nurse anymore) so what's the solutions the boffins give us? Change everything and make it easier to mess things up. Fantastic, all that time in academia has clearly paid off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    278 and if we remove the social stigma completely aids will be magically erradicated.
    You miss the point (thinking>sarcasm). If the stigma is reduced more people would get tested (and be open about their status). This may raise awareness and prevention.
    Also, HIV is not AIDS - thanks for proving my point about ignorance!.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    Unbelievable that in the 21st century bigotry is alive and kicking in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    "Around the world, there have been four cases of health workers infecting patients, none of which was in the UK".
    Thats because HIV infected health workers are not allowed to treat patiants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    // paulmerhaba

    I assume you have some evidence to back up that claim or did you just make it up like you did on on the other 2000000000 posts you have had removed.
    I have told you a million times don't exaggerate.

    The BBC lies a lot in its attempts to make immigration seem acceptable, but even it acknowledges the TB/immigration issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    "where am I
    But by your own reasoning shouldn't a medical professional who knows they have something that can be transmitted choose to stop practicing medicine themselves?"

    Not if they agree to follow the procedures approved to reduce or eliminate their risk, just as car accidents are much less likely if we all did follow the agreed safe driving and car safety standards set by law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    I think the NHS has bigger problems than HIV, super bugs are the real problem surely?

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    In the interests of open debate, could the BBC advise us on the annual cost of treating one person with HIV?
    I'd just like to know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    To all those saying "if the risk are so tiny we should ignore them" lets hope you or anyone you know isn't the one in 5 million who is infected. Why take ANY chance, a persons life is worth more than anothers career. This isn't prejudice HIV is a terrible illness that could effect anyone but preventing risk, ANY risk, is a duty not a choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    As long as the NHS / Government accept liabilty to any patient infected as a result of the relaxation in the rules then its fine by me . Just as a matter of interest , does anybody know if these rules will no longer be applicable to employees in private clinics ? Can't imagine it would have been allowed for an HIV infected surgeon doing exploratory surgery on Prince Phillip , thats all .

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    ridiculous decision

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    Utterly ridiculous, i cannot actually believe what I read! Who dreams up this nonsence! Added to the list of other complications you could have while 'under the knife', now we could come out of hospital with HIV! They are actually letting this BE a complication possibility! Just when you think you have heard it all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    @283.Gee is not really here, films are not reality they often extend and over dramatize events for shock value.

    As for your original statement you said that containment was the only way to eradicate the HIV the only way to achieve containment is to test every one and segregate them from the populace. Otherwise there is always a risk of infection spreading.

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    Health works put there health at risk every day by dealing with people who don't even know there status. So how can anyone complain about the reverse.
    Health workers don't get a choice when someone turns up at A&E bleeding etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    52.Karl Mitchell
    "If the 'ney-sayers' had bothered to read the article completely, one of the criteria for an individual to have the restriction lifted is 'no detectable viral load'."

    Whilst I understand the science, that's not really a good enough guarantee when it could be my child's future at stake.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.


    One could say that you're sick by disregarding the most base of instncts (the need to survive)

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    "The Pub Know-All
    The Prof uses the word 'negligible' but what exactly does it mean in this context? I want to know."

    The risk of death or serious injury every time you get into a car or walk down the street is most definitely non-negligible yet, presumably, you are prepared to take that risk every day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.


    Go to another country then if your that worried. No one is going to stop you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    The rules that have served so well are to be done away with. Like the financial system nothing can possibly go wrong. The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one he said. But still they come.


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