Opinion: HIV Restrictions on NHS workers are “Out of Step”

As Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, I welcome the government’s announcement to consult and determine whether restrictions on NHS workers with HIV, should be relaxed, after a review found an “extremely” low risk of the disease being passed on to patients.

Alongside the Blood Ban announcement in July, which for me was only a small step in the right direction (as there is further work to do); because the stigma remains for men who sleep with men and their partners, with a 12 month deferral ban, the signal from government strikes the right tune at how current policy is being determined.

To arrive at a decision, the Coalition must follow a path especially when confronted with these types of controversial and complicated areas, whereby scientific evidence has to be at the heart of the process. Where there are doubts, further in-depth study and review of policy are always necessary to ensure the outcome is based on unprejudiced evidence and not on previous stereotypical behaviour based on gender, sexual practice or any other personal characteristic. As a firm believer in this, it is a tribute to our coalition government that this path is being followed.

Therefore, returning to last week’s government announcement, here are the eight key points why this consultation is required and why we as Liberal Democrats should applaud it in its entirety – and shout the fact that this is being achieved under our stewardship.

  1. The “United Kingdom” is “out of step” and lagging behind the latest scientific advice in all the word’s developed nations on this particular issue.
  2. Medically the chances of transmitting HIV during a serious invasive type of operation like heart surgery, is 1 in 5 million chance, therefore “extremely low risk.”
  3. For less intrusive operations or medical procedures like local anaesthetics during dental surgery it is negligible, i.e. not a measurable probability.
  4. Since 1981, 10,000 patients have actually been tested to check if the infection has been passed from HIV+ workers and not one person has contracted the virus.
  5. Forbidding HIV+ workers from performing surgery or dental procedures is needlessly losing their expertise when there are highly qualified individuals whose skills the health service require.
  6. The “risk” is even further reduced when the HIV+ medical workers are on controlled medication and its HIV infection is being strictly monitored and treated successfully.
  7. There are 110 workers currently in this position who could be added to the workforce for surgical and dental procedures.
  8. Most crucially the knowledge and development of HIV is forever advancing, and therefore following in-depth research and analysis if restrictions can be removed then this can only benefit our society in the 21st century, and we as Liberal Democrats should be proud of these developments.
  9. Adrian Trett is Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats.

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