HIV testing raises numerous human rights issues. When a test for HIV antibodies was first developed, there were calls for compulsory testing and quarantine of those testing positive. Ever since, political, technological and medical developments in testing for HIV and treating HIV infection have continued to raise serious legal and ethical questions.
HIV testing policies, programs and practices must respect, protect and fulfill human rights. Such an approach to HIV testing is consistent with good public health practice and outcomes. Human rights law requires that HIV testing include:
- informed consent;
- pre- and post-test counselling; and
- guaranteed confidentiality of test results.
These elements are crucial to the success of HIV testing as a public health measure to reduce HIV transmission and to provide care, treatment and support for people who test HIV-positive.
Compulsory HIV testing violates basic human rights. "Routine" HIV-testing risks violating human rights in the testing process if counselling or informed consent are not required. It may also contribute to subsequent abuses against people who test positive.
The Legal Network works on numerous legal and human rights dimensions of HIV testing, including:
- access to anonymous HIV testing;
- HIV testing and immigration policy;
- "rapid" HIV testing;
- home testing for HIV and access to HIV testing outside health care settings;
- testing within Aboriginal communities in Canada;
- "routine" testing of women during pregnancy and testing of newborns;
- testing of specific populations such as prisoners, sex workers, military personnel; and
- forced testing in instances of occupational or non-occupational exposure to HIV.