U.K. Proposal to Test All African Nursing Recruits Criticized by Medical Officials, AIDS Groups
A proposal by the U.K. government to administer HIV tests to all African nurses recruited by the National Health Service has drawn criticism from the Nursing and Midwifery Council and HIV/AIDS organizations, BBC News reports. Mandatory HIV testing for foreign healthcare workers was first proposed last year after the Wolverhampton Health Authority learned that it had recruited 10 HIV-positive nurses from Southern Africa. Stuart Skyte, head of communications for NMC, said that the proposal "came as a bolt out of the blue to us when it was announced" and has "provoked a great deal of surprise and anger" within the medical community. NMC would be responsible for carrying out the mandatory testing and "has the powers to ensure that nurses must be in good health" before being permitted to work in the United Kingdom.
Would Positive Test Exclude Employment?
The proposed mandatory testing scheme has not been fully explained, and it remains unclear how and when the tests would be administered and whether a positive test would exclude a foreign nurse from working in the United Kingdom. "[T]he government does not define what good health means," Skyte said, adding, "One can be HIV-positive but in good health." Joshua Odongo, an official from the African HIV Policy Network, said that the plan would "only heighten stigma and the discrimination" against African nurses working in the United Kingdom. Derek Bodell, CEO of the National AIDS Trust, said that media reports stating that nearly 700 HIV-positive African nurses were recruited by the government last year to help ease the nation's nursing shortage are "unrealistic and a complete fantasy" designed to scare to public. He said there have been a few cases of HIV-positive nurses being recruited by NHS, but noted that there was not a "blanket invasion of people who have been recruited abroad who are HIV-positive." There have been no documented cases in the United Kingdom of a patient being infected by an HIV-positive healthcare worker (BBC News, 8/16).