Title

AIDS Phobia, Public Health Warnings, and Lawsuits: Deterring Harm or Rewarding Ignorance?

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

11-1995

ISSN

1541-0048

Publisher

American Public Health Association

Language

en-US

Abstract

Courts in more than a dozen states have decided cases in which a person has claimed money damages for his or her fear of getting acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Although most courts have rejected such claims in the absence of actual exposure to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), their reasoning has varied slightly from state to state. This article argues that negligence law should not permit people who are HIV negative to recover damages for an unfounded fear of AIDS. Public health statements intended to educate the public about preventing HIV transmission may have encouraged some fear-of-AIDS lawsuits against health care practitioners. Although well intentioned, such statements have been used to justify inappropriate restrictions on medical practice and disclosure of a practitioner's HIV status. To avoid such misuse, such statements should be revised to make clear that the way in which procedures are performed, not who performs them, determines HIV transmission.

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