How to care for HIV patients

Healthcare practitioners have a responsibility to protect and promote the health of individuals and they have a commitment to provide quality care. A perceived potential HIV risk to the healthcare practitioner is no excuse for suboptimal treatment. Unilateral decisions, for example, not to resuscitate a HIV patient are violations of the patient’s rights.

Practitioners must obtain informed consent before testing a patient for HIV, as it is ethically and legally mandatory, except in a medical emergency or in the case of a child where a parent or guardian is required to give consent. The diagnosis of HIV, without further examination and investigation, provides only the most basic information about a person’s prognosis or actual state of health. It is imperative that the practitioner continues counselling and conducts further investigations once a patient has been diagnosed as being HIV positive.

It is important that the practitioners give due consideration to other healthcare professionals who are also involved in the management of the same patient (e.g. where necessary, and with the patient’s consent, inform them of the HIV status of the patient).

Practitioners must support all measures aimed at preventing HIV infection. These measures include disseminating educational information regarding HIV infection, alteration of lifestyle and improved management of predisposing and aggravating factors including other sexually transmitted diseases.

Reference list:

Health Professional Council of South Africa, 2015. “Guidelines for Good Practice in the Health Care Professions, Booklet 6.”