In American bioethics, there are three recognized principles of ethics. These include the respect for persons, justice and beneficence. Stigmatization during the discovery of HIV in patients led to severe psychological and psychosocial issues. Health professionals are often faced with ethical dilemmas due to the professional standards that require the maintenance of patient confidentiality. The access to experimental or new treatments also presents ethical issues in HIV management. The inseparable link between the spread and impact of HIV on patients and the society at large, as well as human rights violations form the basis of the observance of ethical issues related to HIV/AIDS.


All medical information is considered to be confidential and protected by the Constitution of the United States of America. The sensitive nature of HIV- related information has led to the implementation of policies that seek to provide additional protection for medical records of HIV patients. Consequently, such information may not be released unless there is authorization for the release of HIV related information. Nonetheless, there are exceptions to the confidentiality of HIV records. For instance, it is the obligation of health care workers to report cases of HIV incidences to public health officials. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that anonymous reporting be conducted by health officials in which name reporting of HIV incidences is not possible.

Informed Consent for HIV Testing

During the onset of the AIDS epidemic, HIV testing required the consent of the patient before health providers began the process. The reason for this is the effects of the psychosocial risks that include stigmatization, rejection by the family, workplace discrimination, and restricted access to public amenities. Additionally, during this period, there was no proven treatment or symptom delay drugs or therapies such as the antiretroviral therapy. Early diagnosis would, therefore, have negative consequences on the lifestyle and livelihood of the patient in addition to the increased risk of committing suicide. In light of this, special procedures were formulated to obtain consent from a patient before conducting an HIV test. Part of ethics in this process include Pretest counselling which is still active in a majority of the states in the world. Other considerations include the ability to withdraw consent, the voluntary nature of the test, confidentiality of results, and anonymous testing. All in all, it is important to realize that ethical dimensions of HIV seek to avoid the psychological breakdown of patient due to the shock of being positive.

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