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The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal
"Ten students are working while HIV positive"
 real 56k

Friday, 12 January, 2001, 10:23 GMT
HIV nurses 'pose no risk'
nurse
Health authority says the nurses pose no risk
A number of hospital staff recruited in Africa for jobs in the Midlands have been found to be HIV positive, but officials say there is no risk to patients.

Wolverhampton Health Authority says between five and 10 staff and students have the virus, and are either working at hospitals in the city or completing a three-year nursing course.

The authority was quick to reassure the public that they would not be allowed to carry out "high-risk procedures" such as operations and posed no risk to patients.


I am happy that everything in this case has been done correctly

Jane Eminson
Wolverhampton Health Authority
There is no recorded case of a health worker passing on the HIV virus to a patient in the UK.

The group was brought to the UK as part of a drive to cope with the nursing staff shortage and the presence of the HIV virus was detected during occupational health screening.

The health authority, backed by Health Minister Gisela Stuart, said it was acting within NHS guidelines and added that Wolverhampton was not unique.

It said staff from overseas with HIV were likely to be working in hospitals elsewhere in the country.

Guidelines

Chief executive Jane Eminson said the group were on a course at the Wolverhampton University School of Nursing and Midwifery.

"The nurses are from the sub Sahara region of Africa, mainly Zimbabwean," she said.

"They were asked questions about their state of health before applying.

"I am happy that everything in this case has been done correctly and we are acting within those guidelines."

Health Minister Gisela Stuart backed the health authority supported the health authority's decision.

"Just because someone carries the HIV virus doesn't mean they develop full-blown Aids," she said.

"There has been screening. That's why they are picking this up.

"There are very careful procedures that they are not working in high-risk areas."

'Responsible attitude'

Anyone refusing a test is not allowed to carry out high risk procedures and all staff are obliged to have a test if they believe they may have become infected.

Mrs Stuart said there have not been any cases where a patient had been infected by a health care worker.

"I think the authority is taking a very responsible attitude in the way they are handling it."

Ms Eminson said the risk of people getting HIV from unprotected sex or needles was far higher than contracting it from medical staff.

Revelations about the African nurses were made in The Sun newspaper which said the identities of the group would be kept secret from colleagues because of "employee confidentiality".

It said in the region of Africa the group is from, one in four of the adult population has been infected with HIV through heterosexual sex.

Derek Bodell, of the National Aids Trust, said he was sad that papers were writing scare stories about HIV.

He said: "We should know by now how HIV is transmitted, and we should know that we have got good, clear procedures.

"I am afraid some papers just see HIV as something to sell papers."

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