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UK lifts restrictions on NHS staff living with HIV
The UK government has announced that an outdated regulation, which restricts healthcare staff living with HIV from undertaking certain procedures, is to be lifted. The current policy bans HIV positive National Health Service (NHS) employees from conducting "exposure prone procedures", regardless of their viral load (the level of the virus in their body). This policy has been in place since the 1980s but does not account for subsequent advances in medical science, and, in particular, the introduction of effective antiretroviral treatment (ART) – meaning people who adhere to treatment can have undetectable viral loads.
This change will mean that healthcare staff in England, Scotland and Wales who are controlling the virus with ART will now be able to conduct all tasks relating to their roles. The government has recognised that the current policy relating to HIV positive healthcare workers is holding back progress. England’s Chief Medical Officer has stated that “the risk [of transmission] is negligible” and what is needed is “a simpler “system that continues to protect the public…..and that does not hold back some of our best healthcare workers because of a risk that is more remote than being struck by lightning”.
When the new system comes into force, healthcare workers living with HIV will be permitted to undertake all medical procedures if they are taking, and adhering to, ART. Their viral load must also be undetectable – this will be monitored on a regular basis.