Posted by: Alta Ferreira | 2009/08/13

Disclosure HIV status

Is a doctor allowed to disclose HIV status to patient' s partner if client refuses to do so? Reference to HPCSA guidelines.

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Our expert says:
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Dear Alta
A doctor is not supposed to divulge a patient's HIV status to anyone without the patients permission. However when a HIV positive patient does not inform his partner and puts his partner at risk, the doctor may have a moral obligation to disclose the status to the patients partner. The guidelines says:
Health care practitioners should try to encourage their HIV positive patients to disclose their status to their sexual partners so as to encourage them to undergo VCT and access treatment if necessary. This is consistent with good clinical practice.
If the patient refuses consent, the health care practitioner should use his or her discretion when deciding whether or not to divulge the information to the patient’s sexual partner, taking into account the possible risk of HIV infection to the sexual partner and the risks to the patient (e.g. through violence) that may follow such disclosure. The decision must be made with great care, and consideration must be given to the rights of all the parties concerned. If the health care practitioner decides to make the disclosure against the patient’s wishes, the practitioner must do so after explaining the situation to the patient and accepting full responsibility at all times.
Dr Bets

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