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How do I write an essay on ethical issues involved in counseling clients who have AIDS or are at high risk for acquiring HIV?


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Counseling people who have AIDS or are at high risk for acquiring HIV can present several ethical issues for healthcare providers.  While client care must remain the priority in any counseling relationship, it is important to acknowledge that a client who has AIDS, is HIV+, or is at high risk of acquiring HIV may present a health risk to their current or future sexual partners.  In addition, other high-risk behaviors, such as needle-sharing, present a community risk. 

The first step in writing an essay on this topic is recognizing the various ethical issues that you should consider.

Those ethical issues include:

  1. The confidentiality of medical information.  This not only includes whether it is ethical to keep medical information confidential when healthcare workers may be at risk, but also whether it is ethical to break confidentiality in order to warn potential partners of their risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
  2. Whether patients should have to supply informed consent prior to HIV testing or other medical procedures.
  3. The stigma surrounding people living with HIV/AIDS.
  4. The ethics of partner notification.  Is there a difference in notifications that simply notify partners of the risk of HIV/AIDs and notifications that may identify the infected person?
  5. The ethics of treating clients with HIV/AIDS in jurisdictions that criminalize the intentional exposure of others to HIV/AIDS.
  6. How to treat HIV+ clients with compassion, even if they are engaging in dangerous sexual practices (such as unprotected sex with uninformed partners, bareback parties, etc.).
  7. The rights of patients to refuse treatment for HIV/AIDS. 
  8. The intersection of state, national, and local laws and ethical guidelines for counseling.  How does a counselor respond when there is an apparent conflict between the counselor’s legal and ethical obligations?

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