Rights and duties of HIV infected health care professionals

Lawrence O. Gostin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In 1991, the CDC recommended that health care workers (HCWs) infected with HIV or HBV (HbeAg positive) should be reviewed by an expert panel and should inform patients of their serologic status before engaging in exposure-prone procedures. The CDC, in light of the existing scientific uncertainty about the risk of transmission, issued cautious recommendations. However, considerable evidence has emerged since 1991 suggesting that we should reform national policy. The data demonstrates that risks of transmission of infection in the health care setting are exceedingly low. Current policy, moreover, does not improve patient safety. At the same time, implementation of current national policy at the local level poses significant human rights burdens on HCWs. Consequently, national policy should be changed to ensure patient safety while protecting the human rights of HCWs. This article proposes a new national policy, including: (1) a program to prevent bloodborne pathogen transmission; (2) a responsibility placed on infected HCWs to promote their own health and well-being and to assure patient safety; (3) a discontinuation of expert review panels and special restrictions for exposure-prone procedures; (4) a discontinuation of mandatory disclosure of a HCW's inflection status; and (5) the imposition of practice restrictions if a HCW is unable to practice safely because of a physical or mental impairment or failure to follow careful infection control techniques. A new national policy, focused on management of the workplace environment and injury prevention, would achieve high levels of patient safety without discrimination and invasion of privacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-85
Number of pages19
JournalHealth Care Analysis
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002


  • HBV
  • HCV
  • HIV
  • Health care professionals
  • Infected
  • Privacy
  • Rights
  • Risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy


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