Has the Time Come for Mandatory HIV/AIDS Testing
December began with the 20th annual observance of World AIDS Day. Both the NY Times and the Washington Post ran articles discussing the potential benefits of mandatory testing in curbing the incidence (new cases) and prevalence (all existing cases) of the disease. The Washington Post article focused on implementing such a policy in the United States while the New York Times article examined an international perspective. Our Constitution constantly forces us to balance the rights of the individual against the rights of citizens collectively. It endows each of us (even those with disease) with the right to privacy. In addition, principles of bioethics state we also have the right to autonomy. That is, the right to to accept or refuse medical treatment for ourselves. The Post article used bird flu as a disease for comparison. Yet, the fact that, HIV (which causes AIDS) does not have the ability to infect people through casual contact seems to significantly diminish the argument for mandatory testing. Such a mandatory testing policy would violate individual rights to autonomy and privacy of health information. More importantly, well designed health communication campaigns for volunteer testing and aggressive preventive techniques could transform the culture regarding AIDS in America without sacrificing the rights of individuals.