UK & World News
HIV-Positive Medics: Work Ban To Be Lifted
Dentists, doctors, surgeons and midwives who have HIV will be able to carry out all medical procedures under new Government plans.
Healthcare workers with HIV are currently banned from taking part in certain invasive procedures - dentists are suspended immediately after diagnosis.
But the Government wants these rules modernised in line with the most recent science.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said there is no risk to patients.
''This change is based on fact. What I'm asking is for the public to wake up to where science is and understand that HIV has moved on from the 1980s," she said.
"People are not infectious because they are infected, they are infectious because they are not being treated.
"Now with effective treatment someone diagnosed with HIV can lead a normal and healthy life with no risk of infecting another.
She added: "It is no longer a death sentence."
The ban is due to be lifted next April and the Department of Health has said clinicians will be strictly monitored and their treatment tested to safeguard patients.
Current regulations mean healthcare workers are tested for HIV and other conditions when they join the profession, and are obliged for further tests if they suspect a patient has been put at risk.
However, they must volunteer for subsequent checks and no routine tests are carried out as part of their career.
In addition to the new rules for healthcare workers, people will be able to buy self-testing kits for HIV to encourage earlier detection. The kits must comply with EU regulations.
Up to 100,000 people in the UK are living with HIV but around a quarter of them are unaware they are infected.
In 2011, there were around 6,000 new diagnoses of HIV in the UK.
It is hoped the changes to self-testing kits will give people more choice on how to get tested and so get treatment earlier and reduce the risk of passing on the virus.
Deborah Jack, chief executive of the National Aids Trust (NAT), said the new policy was "based on up-to-date scientific evidence and not on fear, stigma or outdated information".
"It is grossly unfair that some highly trained health professionals are not able to work because they have HIV although they are not putting anyone at risk.
"If a healthcare worker thought their job was at risk they might be less likely to get tested.
"Now we are taking away that worry and also making it easier by enabling people to carry out a test at home. The patient wins and the healthcare worker wins."
Although figures are not precise, medical officials estimate there are 110 nurses, doctors and other medical staff with HIV in the UK.
The Government predicts that patients will have more chance of being struck by lightning than being infected by one of them, if they are on effective treatment.
There have been four cases worldwide of health workers infecting patients, with no cases in the UK.