NHS staff infected with the Aids virus will be allowed to carry out operations and other invasive procedures for the first time. A ban which has been in place for more than 20 years is to be lifted by the Government, which says it will not put patient safety at risk.
The ban was imposed because of fears that if an Aids-infected surgeon or dentist cut themselves during certain types of operation, it could result in the patient becoming infected. Surgeons, dentists, midwives and nurses with HIV will be able to work normally providing they are taking drugs that eradicate the virus in the bloodstream.
In another move, from next year, people will be able to buy HIV self-testing kits that are currently illegal for home use. From next April, anyone with HIV wanting to carry out surgical and dental procedures would have to go on a confidential register and have three-monthly testing to ensure they were complying with treatment.
In 2011, there were 6,280 new diagnoses of HIV in the UK. At the end of 2011, around 96,000 people were living with HIV. It is estimated that around a quarter of people who have HIV don’t know that they have it. Of the 6,280 new cases of HIV in 2011, around 48% were infected through heterosexual sex, and 48% through sex between men.
Under the new rules, healthcare workers with HIV will be allowed to undertake all procedures if they are on effective combination of anti-retroviral drug therapy. They must also have an undetectable viral load of HIV in their system, and must be regularly monitored. Public Health England will set up a confidential register holding data on infected workers.
There have been four cases worldwide of health workers infecting patients since 1992, with no cases in the UK. None of the workers was on drug treatment at the time.
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