HIV transmission, the law and the work of the clinical team: draft recommendations for comment

This document has been written to provide information and guidance to health care professionals in their work, and has been uploaded to the BHIVA website for consultation until Friday 21 July 2006.

Recent legal cases concerning HIV transmission have raised complex questions for both clinicians and service users about rights, responsibilities and legal obligations to disclose information to others.

Clinicians working with people living with HIV are faced with situations that can bring various social values, including civil liberties, public health concerns, confidentiality, autonomy, and discrimination, into conflict.  Although established generic ethical and professional principles continue to apply, certain features of the HIV epidemic have required special consideration.

For an effective therapeutic relationship to be established and maintained people living with HIV and their clinical carers must be able to discuss any relevant matter openly. An underlying principle in the provision of clinical care for people with HIV is the need for a secure and confidential environment in which extremely sensitive matters can be frankly and fully discussed.

The importance of ensuring that full trust is maintained by people with HIV in their clinical services in the light of the introduction of the criminal law into the HIV arena is fundamental, not only for the health of people living with HIV but also for people who may wish to seek information or testing and thus for the wider public health.

This paper focuses on the responsibilities and duties of health care staff in the knowledge that other sources of information on this matter exist for other audiences, including people living with HIV (see appendices for references and for additional sources of information).

Links to other websites are current at date of posting but not maintained.