My diagnosis was a shock. I had always been so fit and suddenly being in hospital was a new experience to me. I was admitted to hospital with quite bad PCP pneumonia. Getting the HIV diagnosis, when I was so unwell in my hospital bed, just made me think my life – as I knew it – especially my career that I had invested so much time and money in, was over. I had a great time in my career up until then, training others and starting postgraduate qualifications. Lying sick in hospital this was all in tatters. I could now not practise. I had no idea what I was going to do, or how I would cope with life now.
Something to cling to
My consultant went out of her way to reassure me that soon, it may be possible to get back to my normal life. This gave me some hope, something to cling to and a reason to fight on. I informed my boss, and my deanery, who have both been excellent in supporting me, and have kept me on in a different role. In my time away from practice, I have had to change to different postgraduate qualifications. Every time I go to see my consultant she asks me if there is any news about regulation changes; she keeps saying it is such a waste to not have me working clinically. She has held me up as a role model, a healthcare worker who did not give up, carried on down a slightly different path, found alternative work in the profession and kept so positive waiting any news.
The wait has been very difficult; I worry about de-skilling, so I practise on a phantom head, extracted teeth, and try to keep motivated. But I do have mixed feelings about the changes. There is now light at the end of the long tunnel but, after listening to radio interviews, I am still very worried. The majority of the callers, and texts were very ‘anti’ the changes, and want transparency for the public, to get access to the planned confidential list of HIV healthcare workers. Most said they would not see a doctor or dentist who was positive.
There was a lot of prejudice even though they said they were not. If this information was public, and so many people refuse to see you, then you are forced out of your profession and the change in the regulations mean nothing. I would have wasted years, and money, adding to my education for my career. I have been on medication since my hospital admission, and have been undetectable for around a year. So, even though the news was a good day, I still fear for the future as well as the fact I can’t practise until next year.
Dentists’ Provident says
Our member also sought advice from Allan Reid, a pioneering dentist who was diagnosed with HIV in 2007. Allan campaigned for an end to the restrictions; a campaign initiated by Dental Protection in 2005. Allan was quoted in the Guardian newspaper on 15 August*, saying: ‘Having to leave dentistry was far worse than the diagnosis. It really defines you as a person – it is who you are – Allan the dentist. Dealing with that loss was like a real bereavement. I just hope the Department of Health will give support to healthcare workers who have lost their livelihoods as a result, those who want to, should now be able to re-train and return.’
Dentists’ Provident welcomed the news announced last month that HIV positive dentists will be able to practise again; and is now developing a support programme for members affected. Dentists’ Provident is currently supporting around half a dozen members who have contracted HIV and are therefore unable to practise dentistry.
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