‘Outdated’ Rules surrounding healthcare workers with HIV will be modernised by the government and it will overturn the ban of the sale of at-home HIV testing kits.
• Chief Medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies announces changes that will affect legality of ‘at home self testing kits’
• Healthcare professionals will have rules relaxed in certain medical procedures.
• Outdated rules date back to the 1980s.
Around 100,000 people in the UK have HIV but according to statistics around a quarter are living with it undiagnosed. Professor Davies has announced today new strategies to help more people get tested and receive the healthcare they need sooner.
The Department of Health (DoH) will also lift the ban on healthcare workers with HIV undertaking some medical procedures such as dental and surgical work.
The DoH has also announced that it will remove the ban on the sale of at-home testing kits, which was introduced in 1992, making it easier for people to get tested earlier and embark on the best treatments available.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said:
‘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. It is time we changed these outdated rules which are sometimes counter-productive and limit people’s choices on how to get tested or treated early for HIV.
“What we need is a simpler system that continues to protect the public through encouraging people to get tested for HIV as early as possible and that does not hold back some of our best healthcare workers because of a risk that is more remote than being killed by lightning.’
If a test indicates a positive result people will need to get a follow-up confirmatory test at an NHS clinic. Clear information about how to interpret the result and what to do afterwards will be included with the kit.
Sir Nick Partridge, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: ‘Advances in medication have transformed what it means to live with HIV, and it’s great to see regulations starting to catch up. People diagnosed in good time can have full, healthy lives, and effective treatment dramatically reduces the risk of the virus being passed on. So long as the right safeguards are in place, there is now no reason why a dentist or a midwife with HIV should be barred from treating patients, or why people who would prefer to test at home should be denied that chance.
‘Legislation plays a vital role in shaping attitudes. We hope these changes continue to improve public understanding of HIV and support for those living with the virus.’
It is hoped by changing the ‘outdated’ rules that the stigma attached to HIV, will mean that people who are reluctant of using existing testing services will be able to take tests earlier.
Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust) said:
‘We welcome these changes to the guidance on HIV positive healthcare workers undertaking exposure-prone procedures and the removal of the ban on self-testing as we believe it is vitally important that policies are based on up-to-date scientific evidence and not on fear, stigma or outdated information.
‘Allowing healthcare workers living with HIV to undertake exposure-prone procedures corrects the current guidance which offers no more protection for the general public but keeps qualified and skilled people from working in the career they had spent many years training for. We know people are already buying poor quality self-testing kits online which is why NAT have campaigned for a change in the law. Legalisation is an important step to ensure they are regulated, accurate and safe.’