HIV infected healthcare workers regulations

Landmark Government rules revealed on 15 August will  allow healthcare workers with HIV to return to practice.

Following the death of an American dental patient in 1990, one of six patients believed to have been infected with HIV in an unresolved Florida case, the UK banned all HIV-infected healthcare professionals from undertaking exposure-prone procedures.

Two major developments since them – anti-retroviral therapy, which is effective in lowering the viral level for patients with HIV, and improved infection control standards – mean that it is safe for healthcare workers with the disease to return to work provided they comply with the conditions of the new regulations.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer,  said the rules – which ban doctors, nurses, midwives and dental professionals with HIV from performing procedures with high risk of exposure – were “outdated”.

She added that advances in monitoring and treating HIV now mean that the chance of being infected with the virus by a healthcare worker was “more remote than being struck by lightning”.

The changes, which health officials said would bring the UK into line with other developed countries – including Sweden, France and New Zealand –will come into effect in April and mark a major policy shift, which reflects the significant progress that has been made in the fight against HIV/Aids in the past three decades.