Good Morning Britain’s Dr Hilary Jones apologises for false claim about doctors with HIV
Good Morning Britain regular Dr Hilary Jones has apologised after he incorrectly claimed doctors who have HIV aren’t allowed to operate on patients.
Jones made his comments during a discussion on Wednesday’s Good Morning Britain (3 March) about whether healthcare workers who refused a COVID-19 vaccine should still be allowed to work with patients.
He told hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid: “If you’ve got staff who are potentially able to transmit the virus to you, they shouldn’t be in that hospital. Would you expect a surgeon to operate on you if you’re HIV positive? Would you expect a surgeon to operate on you if they are Hepatitis B positive? No, they’re not allowed to.”
Jones issued an apology on Thursday’s episode (4 March) of Good Morning Britain and admitted that he had “made an error”.
HIV activists, however, called the mistake “extremely disappointing” and noted that misinformed comments have the potential to “set us back years”.
Matthew Hodson, executive director of aidsmap, told PinkNews: “One of the greatest challenges that people living with HIV continue to face is the ignorance and fear that leads to stigma. It’s extremely disappointing that some medical professionals are themselves not up to date on the impact of effective treatment and what that means for infection control.
“An opportunity that could have been used to share the knowledge that HIV treatment prevents transmission was instead wasted on out-of-date information.”
HIV activist Andrew Keates said: “After years of fighting stigma surrounding HIV, not to mention the recent National HIV test week and the acclaimed Channel 4 series It’s a Sin (including the surrounding activity) – all it takes is an outdated comment from a TV doctor on Good Morning Britain to set us back years.”
Dr Hilary Jones apologised on Good Morning Britain for HIV ‘error’
Dr Hilary Jones owned up to his mistake on Thursday, telling Good Morning Britain viewers: “I just want to return to something that we talked about yesterday, we were talking about healthcare professionals and doctors in hospitals with a potential transmissible infection that they’re carrying that could put their patients at risk, and I made an error.”
“I made a clumsy comparison with people carrying COVID with people who are living with HIV or Hepatitis B not being able to operate on patients.
“They can, of course, they have since 2013 been able to operate and carry out surgical procedures, providing their safeguarding procedures and prevention and infection control are in place to do this,” he explained.
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Jones said there is “no reason” people with HIV can’t operate because their viral load is “almost zero” when they are on effective treatment.
“I was talking about back in the day when they weren’t treated and I need to make that clear and apologise to anybody who was offended by that,” he added.
When the AIDS epidemic first began a HIV diagnosis equated to a death sentence, with no viable treatment options.
But the outlook is very different today. Medical developments mean that people with HIV can live long, healthy and happy lives while taking anti-retroviral medication.
When taken diligently, anti-retroviral medications reduce the viral load in a person’s bloodstream to a negligible level, meaning they will not develop AIDS and they cannot pass the virus on through condomless sex.
Despite this, stigma and misinformation about HIV transmission is still alarmingly common. In November 2020, Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, was heavily criticised by HIV charities when he suggested that the virus can be transmitted by using the same toothbrush as somebody who carries the infection.