Ethics and health

Ethical issues raised by the HIV/AIDS epidemic

Key documents

Testing and counselling

Without effective HIV prevention, there will be an ever increasing number of people who will require HIV treatment. Among the interventions which play a pivotal role both in treatment and in prevention, HIV testing and counselling stands out as paramount.
UNAIDS/WHO recommend that the following four types of HIV testing be clearly distinguished:
1) Voluntary counselling and testing
2) Diagnostic HIV testing
3) A routine offer of HIV testing for patients under specific conditions
4) Mandatory HIV screening

As UN system organizations, UNAIDS and WHO are committed to the promotion and protection of human rights, ethical principles and public health. The guidance offered here is based on the firm belief that human rights and ethical principles provide a framework by which the dignity and health of both those uninfected and those infected by HIV are safeguarded. Furthermore, adherence to human rights and ethical principles is essential to create an effective public health environment in which the most people are encouraged to, and indeed do, change their behaviour, prevent their own infection or onward transmission, and receive care. In the context of HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS and WHO encourage beneficial disclosure of HIV/AIDS status, encourage partner counselling in an ethical way, and recommend the appropriate use of HIV case-reporting.

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