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Open Access Research article

Perspectives on the ethical concerns and justifications of the 2006 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention HIV testing recommendations

Michael J Waxman1*, Roland C Merchant2, M Teresa Celada3 and Melissa A Clark2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Emergency Medicine, Alpert Medical School of Brown University, 593 Eddy Street, Providence, Rhode Island, 02912, USA

2 Department of Community Health, Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Program in Public Health, 121 S Main Street, Providence, Rhode Island, 02912, USA

3 Department of Philosophy, Wheaton College, 26 E. Main Street, Norton, Massachusetts, 02766, USA

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BMC Medical Ethics 2011, 12:24  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-12-24

Published: 16 December 2011

Abstract

Background

In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended three changes to HIV testing methods in US healthcare settings: (1) an opt-out approach, (2) removal of separate signed consent, and (3) optional HIV prevention counseling. These recommendations led to a public debate about their moral acceptability.

Methods

We interviewed 25 members from the fields of US HIV advocacy, care, policy, and research about the ethical merits and demerits of the three changes to HIV testing methods. We performed a qualitative analysis of the participant responses in the interviews and summarized the major themes.

Results

In general, arguments in favor of the methods were based upon their ultimate contribution to increasing HIV testing and permitting the consequent benefits of identifying those who are HIV infected and linking them to further care.

Conclusions

The prevailing theme of ethical concern focused on suspicions that the methods might not be properly implemented, and that further safeguards might be needed.