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News / September 23, 2013

Landmark HIV ruling made in UK

by Guy Hiscott

The Department of Health (DH) in the UK has ruled that dentists with HIV will be able to practise in England, Scotland and Wales from April 2014.
A decision is yet to be reached in Northern Ireland.
The move overturns a ban on HIV-positive dentists that was introduced in 1990 following the high-profile death of an American dental patient who contracted the virus.
The change in policy is based on an expert assessment by a Tripartite Working Group of the accumulated evidence from around the world on the negligible risk of transmitting HIV from an infected healthcare worker to a patient.
Announcing the move, the DH said that the development of anti-retroviral medication and the improvement in infection control measures have reduced the risk of transmission significantly, provided its new regulations are followed.
Kevin Lewis, the dental director of the indemnity organisation Dental Protection, hailed the move as a ‘huge victory for human rights’.
The UK 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 It is time we changed these outdated rules, which are sometimes counter-productive and limit people’s choices on how to get tested or treated early for HIV.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 struck by lightning.’