Informed Consent

All HIV testing should be done with the patient's knowledge and informed consent; this should be free of coercion. Informed consent means that individuals are given enough information about the entire social, legal, health and personal implications of a test to be able to make a fully informed decision to take the test. Ideally, patients must be able to arrive at rational conclusions on the basis of the information given, whilst reconciling this with their current personal circumstances, and make their own decision as to whether they should test at that particular time or defer testing. However, the health benefits of an infected individual's being aware of their HIV status cannot be overestimated. Further information on consent can be obtained from the DH (1996). The key considerations when obtaining consent from a patient for an HIV test are (GMC, 1998):

  • The patient must be competent to consent.
  • The patient needs to understand the purpose, risks, harms and benefits of being tested and those of not being tested.
  • The patient must consent voluntarily.

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