Legal Ethics, Patients’ Rights, and HIV / AIDS

Legal Ethics, Patients’ Rights, and HIV / AIDS


This papers deals legal ethics and patients’ rights in the context of HIV/AIDS.  The HIV epidemic continues to spread around the globe posing a challenge to human rights and protection of people living with HIV. The introduction of HIV/AIDS pandemic poses a wide range of ethical and legal changes. These challenges include disability rights, disclosure and confidentiality, financial resources, treatments, employment rights, co


HIV/AIDS is an abbreviation for Human Immunodeficiency Virus/ Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. One is said to have HIV/AIDS when the CD count is below the normal level. An infected person has a compromised immunity. HIV/AIDS is transmitted in many ways including sexual intercourse, through sharing sharp objects like needles, mother-infant.[1] Since HIV/AIDS is largely a behaviorally spread epidemic, HIV transmission can be prevented via behavioral modifications, such as use of condom during sex, avoiding sharing needles, as well as employing therapeutic intervention to decrease mother to infant transmission of HIV/AIDS.[2]

There are HIV/AIDS challenges that call for legal and ethical considerations. Ethical issues include discrimination, stigma, and misconception. Legal problems include behaviors jeopardizing public health, mandatory testing, and disclosure.

HIV/AIDS continues to be characterized by discrimination and stigma against certain groups. Discrimination jeopardizes fair allocation of access to HIV/AIDS-related services for care and prevention. A person whose seropositive HIV status is publicly known by friends, co-workers and family may become a subject of rejection, malicious gossip and victimization.[3] Despite raising awareness and education initiatives, the fear of death continues to the factor determining stigmatization. People fear acquiring the infection when that interacting with infected person. In addition to that, HIV positive persons are considered to be personally liable for acquiring HIV.  Thus, individuals who are HIV positive do not disclose their status due to fear of stigma and discrimination.

People living with HIV/AIDS are safeguarded against discrimination under Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Under these two pieces, people living with HIV/AIDS are allowed to take part in services provided to others.[4]  Both laws disallow discrimination against qualified individuals based on HIV status. Human service agencies that receive federal assistance or funds are also prohibited from discriminating against people living with HIV/AIDS.

There are many situations in which people living with HIV are denied promotion, denied jobs or laid off.  It is unlawful to discriminate against individuals with HIV/AIDS in public accommodations, and housing. It is unlawful for health and social service providers to disclose that an individual is HIV positive. No individual may need HIV testing as the prerequisite for hiring and continued employment….

[1] Usha Baveja K, Diagnosis and Management of HIV/AIDS: A Clinician’s Perspective (New Delhi: BI Publications, 2004): 405.

[2] Ibid, p.405

[3] Vineet Kaur & Gurmohan Singh, Ethical and legal issues in AIDS. Indian Journal of Sex Transmission Diseases & AIDS, 29.2(2008):65

[4] Office for Civil Rights. Know the rights that protect individuals with HIV and AIDS. Retrieved on May 31, 2016 from

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