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Abstract

The acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) poses a compelling ethical challenge to medicine, science, public health, the legal system, and our political democracy. This report focuses on one aspect of that challenge: the use of blood tests to identify individuals who have been infected with the retrovirus human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In this article, we follow the terminology recently proposed by the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses; that is, we use the term human immunodeficiency virus. This replaces the more cumbersome dual terminology of human T-cell lymphotropic virus type III/lymphadenopathy-associated virus (HTLV-III/LAV).

The issue is urgent: the tests are already in use and plans to implement them much more broadly are being proposed. The issue is also complex: at stake is a potential conflict between the community's interests in stopping the spread of a devastating disease and in preserving important values of individual liberty and equal rights.

 

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