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September 27, 2017

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HIV tests cannot happen without the patient's consent

The Kaohsiung City Government recently fined a local hospital for screening a gay patient for HIV without his consent in violation of existing regulations. According to the HIV/AIDS Rights Advocacy Association of Taiwan, which commented on the story, a patient seeking medical attention at the hospital earlier this year was told to go through HIV screening after announcing his homosexuality to his doctor. That is unacceptable. Whether you live in Taiwan, France or the United States, a doctor does not have the right to test for HIV without the patient's consent.

Every doctor also has a duty of confidentiality to his or her patients. Confidentiality is the protection of personal information, which means keeping a client's information between doctor and client and not telling others, including co-workers, friends, family, etc. An example of maintaining confidentiality is the clients' medical details, which should not be discussed without their consent. In this case, there was a clear violation of the law as the patient said that he was asked to go through HIV screening after announcing his homosexuality to his doctor. The same hospital even asked the patient to go through another HIV test during his visit to a second doctor, meaning that his conversation with his first one was not kept confidential.

In some countries around the world, the written consent of a patient before administering an HIV test is also required, but not in Taiwan. Here nobody is ever asked to agree prior to an HIV testing at a hospital, which is wrong. Doctors should not have the right to test for HIV at their own discretion. It is a personal choice and if you don't want to be tested for HIV, nobody can take that right away.

In 2013, a health care company in the U.S. tested Oregon and Washington members aged 50 to 65 for HIV without their consent. The company used the members' trust to get them tested for the company's benefits. According to Oregon law, however, companies are required to provide patients with the necessary information on testing, which gives them a chance to decline testing. In this case, the law was violated and two Oregon residents eventually sued the health care provider that screened them for HIV without their permission. That was right because patients' rights should always been protected.

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