Outdated HIV ban lifted for healthcare workers

DOCTORS, dentists and other skilled healthcare workers undergoing treatment for HIV will be able to take part in certain medical procedures from which they are currently banned.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Professor Dame Sally Davies announced that outdated rules designed to combat the threat of AIDS in the 1980s will be modernised in line with the most recent science.

The Department of Health in England will lift the ban on healthcare workers with HIV being able to carry out certain dental and surgical procedures, bringing the UK in line with most other Western countries.

The Government has said that under the new system, patients will have more chance – around one in five million – of being struck by lightning than being infected with HIV by a healthcare worker. It points out that there is no record of any patient ever being infected through this route in the UK and there have been four cases of clinicians infecting patients reported worldwide, the last of these more than a decade ago.

The CMO also announced that people will be able to buy HIV self-testing kits once the kits comply with regulations. Removing the ban on the sale of self-testing kits will make it easier for people to get tested as early as possible and get the best treatment available.

If a test indicates a positive result people are advised to get a follow-up confirmatory test at an NHS clinic. Clear information about how to interpret the result and what to do afterwards will be included with the kit.

Professor Davies said: "Many of the UK’s HIV policies were designed to combat the perceived threat at the height of HIV concerns in the 1980s and have now been left behind by scientific advances and effective treatments. It is time we changed these outdated rules which are sometimes counter-productive and limit people’s choices on how to get tested or treated early for HIV."

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust) said: "We welcome these changes to the guidance on HIV positive healthcare workers undertaking exposure-prone procedures and the removal of the ban on self-testing as we believe it is vitally important that policies are based on up-to-date scientific evidence and not on fear, stigma or outdated information.

"Allowing healthcare workers living with HIV to undertake exposure-prone procedures corrects the current guidance which offers no more protection for the general public but keeps qualified and skilled people from working in the career they had spent many years training for. We know people are already buying poor quality self-testing kits online which is why NAT have campaigned for a change in the law. Legalisation is an important step to ensure they are regulated, accurate and safe."

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