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England's chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said it was time to scrap "outdated rules".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She said: "It is time we changed these outdated rules which are sometimes counter-productive and limit people's choices on how to get tested or treated early for HIV.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 445.

    Which is better?

    A 0% chance of being infected or a 0.001% chance of being infected. I know which one I would take.

    People should have the right to choose and risk access their own lives as they see fit. Not be told what is and isn't an "acceptable risk".

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    The NHS as most areas of human endeavour ranges from brilliant thru competent to terrible. Witness recent scandals.Any risk has to be assessed within this reality. A lack of hygiene in some areas is well known & recognised. However, I'm still unconcerned about contracting HIV from NHS staff but terrified by the incompetence of a few. A 40+ nurse tells me she has never heard the word urticaria...

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    1.insignificant: too small or unimportant to be worth considering

    Again. The words of a medical professional. The chances of it being passed may not be 0 but they're so small it may as well be.
    Why do so many people play the lottery, knowing the odds are massively against them? Because it's worth the "risk" just in case. The HIV lottery is not one I wish to enter thanks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    420.Total Mass Retain

    The basic principle is this. If we can make it possible to reduce a risk (however small) and it is easy and practical to do so, then why not take the necessary action to do it. The number of NHS staff affected is small and they could easily be redeployed to other areas.
    I don't "prefer" to accept higher risk - I like to minimise ALL risk, if it is practical to do so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    This country is absolutely insane! They want to think themselves lucky that they are not smokers, then they would know what persecution was all about!

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    sorry this is not on, if you have diabetes you cant do a multitude of jobs, i.e. police response driver, purely because of the risk of you taking a turn or slightly low blood sugar may make misjudge and crash. Its the same with this, if they have HIV then they're off front line duties and can be retrained to teach students. what next if they have MRSA, its not there fault, get them in, think not !

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    I've just taken this from the University of Warwick report:

    "So what are the chances of being struck by lightning? In the UK, 3 people are killed by lightning each year, with a further 50 people injured. This puts the likelihood of being struck at 1 in 1.2 million"

    How many people are treated by the NHS each year?

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    HIV/AIDS sufferers aren't refused insurance out of stigma, they are refused it, or have to pay higher premiums, because it used to be that they were going to die sooner than the rest of the insured population.I expect rates will come into line as life expectancy amongst the HIV/AIDS community returns to normal values with the improved medical treatments etc that are and will become available.

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    So the Chief Medical Officer and two HIV/AIDS charities fully suppot this but no they must be wrong.

    People just need to get a grip. Stop harping on about "the risk", when you're being told the risk is so minute it might as well not exist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    The ban has been lifted as the risk of infection is tiny. This isn't 20 years ago and with modern drugs and a better understanding of the virus the dangers have been significantly reduced and stigma's lifted. Our society is progressive as is our science and understanding of things and this change reflects that. We shouldn't live in a constant paranoid fear of everything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    It's too many for those in the medical field who know all about it

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    248.Fairminded - "usual PC brigade without any common sense....."

    By what seriously WARPED "logic" do you define this move as "without" common sense?

    Common sense says FOLLOW the EVIDENCE......which shows that someone with HIV on treatment has such LOW levels of the virus that they CANNOT pass it on to a patient......

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    I agree with @40 - If the decision has been made on purely medical/scientific knowledge then that good enough for me....

    .... Although still can't help myself and thinking of the song in the "Team America" film - "Everybody has AIDS" lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    354. Your 'careless' medical staff may also be hungover from being out the night before, likewise your airline pilot. Do you ask them what they did the night before incase they are a bit hazy and make a mistake?

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.


    Yes Jon the rule has changed slightly recently.
    It now states that a man who has had protected or unprotected sex with another man cannot give blood for 12 months.

    I do agree with you that the rule described further down in your comment is bizare by comparison, if not a little homophobic? Just because you are gay does not imply you are hedonistic. And likewise for the opposite.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    Interesting to read that many people here saying its ok to add another risk because there are already risks associated with other infections.
    Wonder how many people would travel on aircraft if another risk was added in the design of aircraft

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    Implicit in this story and various responses including many removed is the inference that any implied criticism about gay-related issues must be homophobic and therefore disallowed.
    It's uncannily like immigration in the 2000s when any comment of any kind was met with cries of racism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    That is OK if all HIV infected workers wore a badge saying, "HIV Positive" and the patient has a choice. If I had a choice I would refuses.
    After all tobacco carries a government health warning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    Time will tell in the long run, let's hope it's not another time bomb, like thalidomide. That supposedly had all the science and research.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    So should all patients get told if their Health care worker carries MRSA up their nose or on the skin? Half the workforce would have to go off sick.


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