The Royal College of Nursing has welcomed the lifting of a ban on nurses and other healthcare workers with HIV from carrying out “exposure prone procedures”.
Chief medical officer for England Professor Dame Sally Davies said current guidelines banning surgical procedures where blood could contaminate open tissues were designed in the 1980s and had been “left behind by scientific advances”.
She said it was time to change “these outdated rules” so they did “not hold back some of our best healthcare workers because of a risk that is more remote than being struck by lightning”.
Dame Sally announced today that healthcare workers with HIV would be allowed to undertake all procedures as long as they could prove they were on effective combination anti-retroviral drug therapy, had an undetectable viral load and were being regularly monitored.
The change applies to England, Scotland and Wales and will be in place from April 2014. Public Health England will begin a programme to register and monitor those affected.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “It’s a welcome step… No one in this day and age should feel stigmatised to be living with HIV.”
National AIDS Trust chief executive Deborah Jack said the ban had kept “skilled people from working in the career they had spent many years training for”.
There have been four cases worldwide of patients being infected with HIV by a healthcare worker – the last in 2003.
Dame Sally also said a ban on HIV self-testing kits would be lifted, in order to make it easier for people to get the best treatment available.
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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