Kathryn's Blog

The ethics of honesty

Here’s New York Times piece, this time from The Ethicist column that appears weekly in the Sunday magazine section.

A writer asks: I am an H.I.V.-positive man who, thanks to antiretroviral therapy, has had an undetectable viral load for the past three years. I have no sexually transmitted infections. Though I always practice safe sex, I feel an obligation to disclose my status to any potential partner well before engaging in any sexual contact. My doctors disagree, citing evidence that people in my condition are sexually noninfectious. Others make a buyer-beware type of argument. Am I right, or are they?

I don’t know about you, but I was shocked by this letter, and I was not alone. If you follow the link and ready the Ethicist’s answer, click the “Comments” link and read what other readers sent in. Of course, we only know what is written, but assuming everything is true, why would any doctor give this kind of advice? One thing we have learned from the AIDS epidemic is that sex can kill you, and for sure, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you” does not apply to the sexual history of a potential partner.

The real threat of death by one’s sexual behavior has pushed us to learn to talk about uncomfortable matters early on in relationships. That is good.

Secrets are like untreated infections: they make you sick. Nothing is more curative than openness. As the Ethicist writes: “Your doctors can make all the predictions they want, but you — and your partners — have to live with the outcome.”



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