This site is intended for health professionals only

Ban lifted on HIV-infected healthcare staff

Nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers with HIV will be able to take part in dental and surgical treatments from which they are currently banned. 

The government's updated guidelines, released today (15 August 2013) will put strict rules on treatment, monitoring and testing to safeguard patients. 

Once the rules are implemented in April 2014, the UK will be brought in line with most other Western countries. 

The Department of Health claims that patients will have more chance of being struck by lightning than being infected with HIV by a healthcare worker. 

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally 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“It is time we changed these outdated rules which are sometimes counter-productive and limit people's choices on how to get tested or treated early for HIV.”

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) chief executive Dr Peter Carter said the changes will make UK policy guidance “more up to date” while reducing the stigma associated with HIV. 

He said: “It's a welcome step that nursing staff will no longer be banned from carrying out certain medical procedures, bringing UK policy in line with a strong evidence base demonstrating this will not compromise patient safety. 

“No one in this day and age should feel stigmatised to be living with HIV, as a long-term, manageable condition and we hope these changes will reduce outdated information about HIV risk, reduce stigma and improve HIV awareness among staff and patients.”

HIV-infected workers will be allowed to perform certain procedures if they are on effective combination antiretroviral drug therapy, have an undetectable viral load and are regularly monitored by occupational health physicians. 

A ban on HIV self-testing kits has also been lifted to make it easier for people to get tested as early as possible. 

If the test is positive, people will be advised to get a follow-up test at an NHS clinic. Clear information about how to interpret the result will be included in the kit. 

Deborah Jack, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust said: “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.”