England’s CMO Professor Dame Sally Davies has announced that GPs, and other healthcare workers, with HIV will be able to carry out any procedures if they are on combination anti-retroviral drug therapy.
They must also have an undetectable level of HIV, be regularly monitored, and Public Health England will keep a confidential register of healthcare workers with HIV.
Current guidelines prevent clinicians from carrying out ‘exposure prone procedures’ where an injury to the doctor, or other clinician, could lead to ‘bleed-back’ where the patient’s open tissue could be exposed to the GP’s blood.
These include procedures where a GP’s gloved hand could be cut by a sharp instrument, needle tip, or sharp patient tissue such as bone or teeth.
But Professor Davies said patients had more chance of being struck by lightning than being infected with HIV by a doctor or other healthcare worker.
‘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,’ she said.
There have been only four cases recorded worldwide of a patient being infected by HIV from a healthcare worker, with the most recent being more than 10 years ago. Two cases involved doctors: one was an orthopaedic surgeon performing a hip hemiarthroplasty, and the other was an obstetrician carrying out a Caesarean section.