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The right not to know does not apply to HIV testing
  1. Roberto Andorno
  1. Correspondence to Dr Roberto Andorno, Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 30, 8006 Zurich, Switzerland; roberto.andorno{at}

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In ‘HIV and the right not to know’, Jonathan Youngs and Joshua Simmonds argue that competent adults have the right to refuse an HIV test, but once they have consented to it, they are not entitled to a right not to know its result.1

I basically agree with the authors’ conclusions, although not entirely on the same grounds. In the past I have argued, first, that people have a right not to be informed of the results of genetic testing; second, that this right is primarily grounded on respect for autonomy and, ultimately, on the individuals’ interest in not being psychologically harmed; third, that the wish of not knowing cannot be presumed, but must be explicit and, fourth, that this right is not absolute because it can be overridden when disclosure to the individual is necessary to prevent serious harm to others (in particular, when some form of prevention or treatment is available).2

In that paper, I discussed the right not to know in the context of genetic disorders, not in relation with communicable diseases. The distinction between genetic and communicable diseases is crucial in this debate. Genetic conditions do not pose any threat to other people, since they are not spread by direct contact between persons but are only …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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