Hearing the news that the UK Department of Health is relaxing the current restrictions on healthcare workers living with HIV working in the NHS, I contacted the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, the DUP’s Edwin Poots MLA, asking what plans he had for introducing this here in Northern Ireland. Whilst I was having my complementary therapy at Positive Life, a response arrived in my inbox.

I was informed of the statement made by a DHSSSPS spokesman earlier today,

The Department is aware of the position taken by the Department of Health in England in relation to HIV infected healthcare workers and proposals to relax current restrictions on their practice.  The Minister will receive advice on this issue shortly, which includes the outcome of a Northern Ireland consultation, and will announce his intentions in due course.

I welcome that the Minister is going to receive advice shortly and to announce his intentions in due course, I can only hope that the Minister will actually follow the advice, and follow the lead of the UK Department.

Language used is important

However, I am more than a little disappointed that Northern Ireland’s health department is using such inflammatory language as ‘HIV infected healthcare workers’ in such statements. The guidelines published for journalists by NAT is available online, I should have thought that our health department would not have been quick so sloppy. Many of us who are living with HIV prefer the description I have just used,

people living with HIV.

Using this phrase highlights that it is people we are talking about and on whom we are concentrating — rather than the virus itself. I will be contacting the Health Department to complain about their usage which while correct, does not help to stop the stigma which surrounds HIV in Northern Ireland.

As my husband, Andrew, said earlier,


The comments to the original story on the BBC website show that ignorance about HIV very definitely exists in the UK and anything we can do to increase awareness should be done, without using inappropriate language.