Doctor reveals he is infected with HIV

Health Board says patients faced no risk, writes Glenda Cooper
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The Independent Online
A doctor who has worked for six health boards since he returned from Zambia in 1993 yesterday revealed that he has been HIV-positive for three years as a result of a needle accident while treating a African patient.

Dr Sandy Logie, 57, a retired consultant physician, has written in today's British Medical Journal about his decision to reveal his status. Ahead of its publication, Borders Health Board yesterday called a press conference to stress that no patient has been put at risk of infection.

The board confirmed, however, that patients treated by Dr Logie, who has taken locum posts since his retirement four years ago, would have been unaware of his condition and has set up a free telephone helpline (0800 281239) to reassure them.

A spokesman for the board said: "The doctor informed the health board in the Borders as soon as he knew he was HIV-positive. With their agreement he was allowed to continue working provided that he did nothing that would put any patient at risk. Telling patients might have made them worried about getting infected and there was no cause for worry as there was absolutely no risk."

Yesterday Dr Logie said he felt guilty about not revealing that he was HIV-positive while carrying out locum work and said he had decided to go public to ease the increasing strain.

In the BMJ article he says: "The advice of the Aids team at my local health board was that the fewer people who knew the better. Provided that I did not perform any invasive procedures there was no reason why I could not continue to practise as a physician and, perhaps controversially, there was no need to inform employing authorities of my HIV state before doing short-term consultant locum jobs."

Dr Logie, who is described by the chief medical officer of Borders Health Board as a "much- loved and respected colleague", took early retirement on full pension four years ago during the government programme to reduce the number of National Health Service consultants.

He and his wife, Dorothy (who is HIV negative), decided to go to Africa and one year later in Zambia he received a needle stick injury while injecting a patient. This was shortly followed by two further exposures to HIV-positive blood. Back in Britain he was tested for HIV and the results were positive. According to official figures, the chances of having become infected were 0.3 per cent. "I guess I was just very unlucky," Dr Logie said yesterday.

Dr Logie said he wrote the letter to the BMJ for several reasons. "Firstly as a means of 'coming out' and no longer trying to conceal my HIV state which has been a big strain."

Second, as his health has remained good, he wished to pursue permanent employment but felt that if he were to do so he would be happier "if I can be completely open about my health".

And third, "some family members and close friends have urged me to declare my state both for my personal peace of mind and because I can then be in a position to help people less fortunate".

Dr David Goldberg, of the Scottish Centre for Infection in Glasgow, said yesterday: "There are no records anywhere in the world of patients becoming infected by contact with an HIV-positive physician or surgeon and we see no need for mandatory tests. The real risks are to medical workers treating HIV patients in the line of duty."

In an accompanying editorial to Dr Logie's piece, the BMJ calls for a review of the present policy of the Department of Health, so that more influence would be given to the rights of HIV-positive workers.

It says that in some clinical disciplines "it is feasible and sensible" to advise the healthcare worker to continue to practise, and that all risk procedures should be re-examined.

"A policy which supports healthcare workers is more likely to be more effective than one which excludes and in effect punishes them," the editorial says. "Any policy that could reduce the number of healthcare workers wishing to be tested will result in a pool of undiagnosed and unsupported HIV-positive healthcare workers."

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