Article Text

Download PDFPDF
HIV and the right not to know: a reply to replies
  1. Jonathan Youngs1,
  2. Joshua Simmonds2
  1. 1Core Medical Training, St George's Hospital, London, UK
  2. 2Accident and Emergency, Wexham Park Hospital, Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, Berkshire, UK
  3. Correspondence to Dr Jonathan Youngs, Core Medical Training, St George's Hospital, London SW17 0QT, UK;

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

In his response to our paper, Andorno, like us, defends Claim-A and denies Claim-B, but for different reasons than ours. This is in contrast to Tak Kwong Chan, who defends both claims, and Charles Foster, who appears to deny both. We are grateful to be able to reply to these divergent positions below.

The right not to know does not to apply to HIV testing

Andorno continues to defend a general ‘right not to know’ (at least in the context of genetic information), grounded in autonomy, which may only be overridden in the interests of others. We stated this position asClaim-BA, it is always morally wrong to override a competent adult's desire not to know unless disclosure might prevent serious harm to others.

In our article, we suggested that Andorno would probably deny that people have a right not to know their HIV result (Claim-B, which we also deny) because disclosure of HIV might prevent serious harm to others. In his response to our paper, Andorno makes clear that this is, in fact, his view. His reason is that while people have an interest not to know, grounded in autonomy, this is outweighed by the interest that other people have in not being harmed:[T]he value of autonomy in this context is not strong enough to justify the recognition of a right not to know.

Andorno makes clear that this does not negate the fact that people retain a right to refuse an HIV test (Claim-A, which we also defend). He argues that while autonomy grounds are insufficient to defend a right not to know an HIV result, they are sufficient to defend a right to refuse an HIV test. We find this distinction problematic. If the harm posed to others overrides an individual's interest in not knowing their HIV result, why does it …

View Full Text


  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

Linked Articles

Other content recommended for you