Medical experts including Doctor Christian Jessen have criticised journalist and broadcaster Carole Malone for suggesting the public have a right to know the HIV status of a doctor.
From April 2014 healthcare workers with HIV in England, Wales and Scotland will be allowed to undertake all procedures if they are on effective combination anti-retroviral (ART) drug therapy and are being regularly monitored.
But Malone said the decision would put patients at risk.
“So did the medical profession find a cure for AIDS while we weren’t looking? If not, what’s changed? Why, for two decades, hasn’t it been safe for HIV-infected medics to perform blood-linked procedures? Now suddenly it is. We’re told all HIV-infected people carrying out these procedures will go on a confidential register – which means a secret register. Which means patients won’t know if they’re being operated on or treated by someone with the virus.”
She added: “And they SHOULD know. They SHOULD have a choice.”
In response, Will Harris from Terrence Higgins Trust told PinkNews.co.uk: “The legislation may have changed, but these comments are a sad reminder of just how far attitudes need to catch up. If a healthcare worker with HIV is on effective treatment and has an undetectable viral load, they are essentially non-infectious. This will be carefully monitored by both the NHS and Public Health England to ensure that patient safety is maintained.
“Any of us who use the NHS have no more right to know a healthcare worker’s HIV status than whether they have any other long-term condition. Arguing that patients have the right to choose is arguing that we have the right to discriminate. We don’t, and ignoring the science to panic people unnecessarily is unhelpful.”
“Carole’s views on HIV positive healthcare workers are outdated and born of ignorance”, said a gay HIV positive healthcare worker to PinkNews.co.uk. “A cure to HIV/AIDS has not been found, but modern medication makes the risk of infection from a healthcare worker with an undetectable viral load as likely as being struck by lightening. Only 4 people globally have been infected by healthcare workers, and that was when ART’s weren’t as effective as they are today.
“Patients shouldn’t know about a healthcare workers HIV status, just like they shouldn’t know about any other medical condition that they may have.
“Workers privacy must be respected by the NHS.”
Meanwhile, Doctor Christian Jessen, the presenter of Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies series tweeted PinkNews to say:
Unbelievably ignorant and uninformed comments by Carole Malone. In a national newspaper! For once I’m speechless: http://t.co/tvFJrj5JFo
— Dr Christian Jessen (@DoctorChristian) August 19, 2013