This letter of mine was published in the LATimes magazine June 1991:
[Lorraine] Day says, "Ethically, a doctor should have the right to test any patient for anything."
I strongly disagree, especially in the case of AIDS, for two reasons.
First, although testing can reveal that patients are HIV-positive, there is no way it can tell you they are HIV-negative. That being the case, what difference could the HIV-positive information make? Any difference in a doctor's risk analysis (and subsequent care) between the two is completely unfounded. Instead, the only prudent course is for the care-giver to take appropriate precautions with all patients.
Second, if I were an HIV-positive patient and if my medical facility treated all patients with the dignity, care and respect for personal privacy they deserved, I would have no hesitation revealing my HIV-positive status to them. Unfortunately, as has been shown in many individual cases and in a number of larger studies, most medical facilities refuse to treat HIV-positive patients with dignity and respect (or, in some cases, at all).
That being the case, I will continue to lobby for denying care-givers the blanket right to know patients' HIV status. I am sincerely sorry that this is necessary.