U.K. Surgeons Say Compulsory HIV Testing Should Include Patients
The United Kingdom's Royal College of Surgeons has said that if doctors are required to undergo routine HIV testing, then patients should also have to be tested for the virus prior to an operation, the London Times reports. The proposal was made in response to the U.K. government's proposal to make HIV testing mandatory for many doctors and nurses (Browne, London Times, 7/29). A team of experts set up by the United Kingdom's National Health Service is likely to recommend that all health care workers recruited from other countries be required to take an HIV test prior to working in the United Kingdom. Following reports that as many as 700 HIV-positive nurses -- most from Southern Africa -- were hired by NHS last year, the ministry in August set up a group to examine policy options regarding optional and mandatory HIV testing of health care workers. No evidence exists to suggest that any HIV-positive health care workers have transmitted HIV to any patient in the United Kingdom. British health workers are currently not required to be tested for HIV, and it is unknown whether an HIV-positive test result would exclude a doctor or nurse from working in the NHS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/22). The Royal College stated that if doctors must be tested for the virus, patients must also be screened because doctors are at greater risk of contracting HIV from patients than patients are from doctors. "If you expect a surgeon to put himself up for an HIV test, it is only a matter of human rights that they can test the person on whom they are operating, particularly if this person is in a high-risk group. If the terms and conditions of employment require HIV tests, then the Royal College as a body would wish to have the right to test patients before an operation," Bernard Ribeiro, chair of the Royal College's bloodborne virus committee, said (London Times, 7/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.