public healthHealthcare staff in England, Wales and Scotland who have HIV will no longer be prevented from performing various medical procedures – including surgery – the Department of Health has announced, pointing out that staff are more likely to be hit by lightning than infect patients.

Before they can work with patients, healthcare workers with HIV will have to prove that they are on the right anti-retroviral medication, that they have no detectable viral load of HIV in their body, and that their condition is monitored regularly. A confidential register of staff with HIV will be managed by Public Health England.

The Terrence Higgins Trust said it was great to see regulations starting to catch up with advances in medication for people with HIV.

Calling current arrangements outdated, England’s chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “It is time we changed these rules which are sometimes counter-productive and limit people’s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.”

In April 2014, self-testing kits for HIV will be made publicly available.

Public health minister Anna Soubry said: “HIV continues to be a serious health issue but we know that for a number of reasons some people are reluctant to come forward and get an HIV test in person.

“By removing the ban on the sale of self-testing kits and cutting red tape that stops healthcare workers from treating patients we are bringing the UK in line with most other western countries. We want to make it even easier for people to test themselves as early as possible and get the best treatment available.”