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England's chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said it was time to scrap "outdated rules".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She said: "It is time we changed these outdated rules which are sometimes counter-productive and limit people's choices on how to get tested or treated early for HIV.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 945.

    if the chance of contracting HIV/AIDS from a needle-stick is negligible why are doctors etc given anti viral medication? and we are not

  • rate this

    Comment number 944.

    Yet there are only so many qualified surgeons to perform the countless procedures required each year.

    Giving these people the right to perform tasks they're perfectly capable of will help reduce waiting times and thus result in less deaths. Since nobody is going to get HIV from their surgeon it makes perfect sense.

    I fear you don't know much about HIV, yet still feel your opinion has value.

  • rate this

    Comment number 943.

    HIV is not AIDS
    HIV where someone has an undetectable viral load, has a normal CD4 count and healthy functioning immune system, and is on medication controlling the disease unlikely ever to progress to AIDS where the virus has not been controlled and has destroyed the T immune cells
    Medical staff with AIDS will not be treating patients, for their own benefit as much as the patients'

  • rate this

    Comment number 942.

    if we seem ignorant we apologise because we have been refused the right to learn about this in sex ed classes (by the government) personally im unclear about the reporting yes there have been zero cases in the uk of doctor patient infection BUT a, its been banned and b, its not diagnosed immediately so who do you blame your partner? or surgery you had 6 months ago when you were unaware?

  • rate this

    Comment number 941.

    Evidence based policy making. Great news.

  • rate this

    Comment number 940.

    938. Tim
    Would you prefer a competent doctor with HIV or a bumbling fool without it?
    Or would you prefer a competent doctor without HIV or a bumbling fool with HIV?

    Answers on a postcard please.
    Time to go, because the answer is so difficult.

  • rate this

    Comment number 939.

    This is just a way for DC's future privatized NHS to employ more foreign workers rather than train our own and give them a career, and removing the Guidelines on AIDs has just given him Sub-Saharan Africa as a recruiting ground, where the disease is now endemic and widespread. I bet the Private Hospitals he and his chums use will not relax the regulations. Do as I say not as I do eh Dave?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 938.

    Life is all about risks - you can't expect to be safe 100% of the time, the universe is full of deadly things. You WILL die one day, that you can be certain of.

    Dying of HIV from surgery is not going to be the cause. There's plenty of other things that could kill you in surgery, incompetence being the leading cause.

    Would you prefer a competent doctor with HIV or a bumbling fool without it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 937.

    922. riff77
    yes I do know the risks involved in my chosen occupation, but I can take precautions against known risks, not if I am under anesthetic on a surgeons table, or on a dentists chair. Sorry if I am discriminating against afflicted people, but staff with transmittable diseases have to accept some restrictions on what they can and cannot do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 936.

    Sounds great - but why would I choose 0.000001% risk versus 0.0%

    Why would I choose some risk against none?

    Why - would - I - choose some risk - instead on NONE?

  • rate this

    Comment number 935.

    Mark, the risk is negligible - so tiny it is irrelevant, completely unimportant.

    There is a far higher correlation between IQ and surgeon competence - surgeons with lower IQs are statistically more likely to kill you. The odds are minute, but the difference is greater than between doctors with and without HIV.

    So should we ban all surgeons with an IQ lower than 150? No, that would be silly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 934.

    930. Zakmann
    I can’t believe the BBC.
    They’ll allow all the ignorance in the world to be displayed on this subject but, when it comes to the utterances and sleazy actions of politicians and big business there is hardly a comment allowed on any article at all.
    Well done BBC you’ve taken over the role of the censors.

    Still trolling around, have you no shame?
    Just one constructive comment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 933.

    It spread because people have sex a lot - many millions of copulations every day.

    Your odds of contracting HIV during a one-night stand with someone who is infected and doesn't use medication without using protection is around 1 in 500.

    HIV can be treated, which is why it's not so bad now in developed countries - someone on medication will have good longevity and won't infect other people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 932.

    Hospitals have not exactly been proven to be bastions of integrity and honour. God knows what a person with a contagious disease will do in order to keep their job.

    Please excuse my lack of confidence in the NHS' ability to keep me safe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 931.

    Britain has always "led" the news, or invented what is important as I would put it. Hadn't you noticed by the stuff you hear about as compared to the stuff that affects you in the world. Big Catholic contingent in the BBC as well, so you will find the BBC reflects the views of Rome much more than the views of Britain or even Downing Street.

  • rate this

    Comment number 930.

    I can’t believe the BBC.

    They’ll allow all the ignorance in the world to be displayed on this subject but, when it comes to the utterances and sleazy actions of politicians and big business there is hardly a comment allowed on any article at all.

    Well done BBC you’ve taken over the role of the censors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 929.

    Jeremy - No I don't get it

    You're saying there was a small chance of being infected before (because of secrecy) but it has been reduced to an even smaller chance now.

    That means that infection was possible before because of secrecy.

    What are the chances of being infected by a doctor or dentist who does not have HIV/AIDS?

  • rate this

    Comment number 928.


    Semantics, and politically correct semantics at that. In your attempt to introduce nuances into the debate you introduce risk, risk that we should be able to decline.

    I do not want a medical professional to attend to my problems if they have a transmissible disease, irrespective of how well "managed" it is.

    If you think that is unsophisticated, then tough!

  • rate this

    Comment number 927.

    Mark (923) you don't get it, do you?

    The chances of you being infected are even tinier now that the ban has been lifted. That's because there's no longer any reason for anyone to hide their condition - or put off having a test and starting treatment.

    If you live in the real world, rather than in some tabloid dystopia, you'll find that behavioural economics is a better guide than basic maths.

  • rate this

    Comment number 926.

    Thing is that aids is hard to catch, so it's not much of a worry. A much bigger worry for me is hepatitis, which is quite easy to catch. When I used to hear about those with certain forms of hepatitis you had to keep a separate plate, knife and fork fro them. Now imagine they could work anywhere, and they could go eat in any cafe, and have a good think about the risk from HIV.


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