Thursday, 1 December 2011

World AIDS Day

10:00AM GMT 01 Dec 2011On June 5th 1981, a medical journal in the States documented a mysterious illness that had killed five men in Los Angeles.

It was the first reference to what would later be known as Aids and by December of that year - exactly 30 years ago this month - the first case of Aids was diagnosed in the UK.

Today marks not only that anniversary, but also World Aids Day which, since 1988 has been observed around the world to commemorate those who have died from the disease and also to raise awareness of the issue and to raise funds for continued research into a possible cure and treatment.

Over 86,500 people in the UK are currently living with HIV, part of a world-wide epidemic of which the World Health Authority (WHO) estimates more than 30 million adults and close to 3 million children are sufferers.

Despite this, AIDS diagnoses have halved in the same time period thanks to advances in treatment as doctors have been able to combat the HIV virus with a growing armory of anti-retroviral medication.

While 30 years ago an HIV/Aids diagnoses was seen as a death sentence, today HIV/AIDS is now considered a chronic condition rather than a fatal disease.

This week the government announced it has launched a consultation about changing the current restrictions on doctors and dentists with HIV working in the NHS.

A working group has recommended that those with HIV should be allowed to undertake “exposure prone procedures” provided they are taking antiretroviral drugs and are being monitored.

There have been no reported transmissions in Britain, despite more than 25 cases in the last 12 years where a patient has been exposed to an HIV-infected doctor, dentist or other health worker. More than 10,000 patients have been tested.

Currently health workers who carry out certain procedures - known as exposure-prone procedures - are banned from working immediately they are diagnosed as HIV positive.

Britain has one of the toughest regimes in the world. In France, dentists can practise if they are clinically well and if the virus can not be seen in their blood stream under a microscope.

In Israel, a dentist with HIV can practise, providing they are taking HIV treatment and they maintain an undetectable viral load and follow infection control procedures.

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