Scientists all over the world do their best to invent new ways of preventing and treating the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) to save millions of human lives in both developed and developing countries. However, it is often the case that introducing innovative prevention methods, activists forget about ethical concerns that they bring about.
The given scenario addresses the ethical dimension of HIV/AIDS prevention in developing countries: The discussion concerns negative ethical consequences of several rather effective solutions. The problem is no matter what path is taken, it will inevitably lead to discrimination, freedom violation, disrespect to cultural values and religious beliefs, and/or social unrest. Even promotion of condom usage faces supply chain resistance as many people are unwilling to go against nature and religion. Obligatory testing, which would allow identifying those who may threaten the community health, at the same time, would make infected people outcasts from the society. Thus, it is necessary to find out how to balance the benefits obtained with moral and ethical sacrifices that have to be made.
The Most Appropriate Solution
Having studied the given scenario, I concluded that the best of the suggested solutions is to reinforce educational efforts on the topic to make the population of developing countries aware of the preventive measures they can take as well as testing that allows tracking their state of health. I believe that increased awareness of the population coupled with voluntary testing would not violate the ethical code. Furthermore, if tests are conducted anonymously, it would help avoid doing social harm to those who are infected as their condition would be kept confidential (Duflo, Dupas, & Kremer, 2015).
The importance of HIV/AIDS education is also supported by the fact that in many African countries the problem is not that people are unable or unwilling to do anything to deal with the problem but are simply ignorant about the existence of the virus. According to a recent survey, even in the United States, more than 30% of teens believe that there is a cure for it (Ott, 2014).
However, when we speak about education, we should bear in mind that it does not imply several lectures for the population. Education has to be an unceasing process: People must learn how to pass knowledge from one generation to another to ensure continuous progress in prevention.
There are three major reasons this option seems the most appropriate (Chiu, Menacho, Fisher, & Young, 2015):
- Education is capable of preventing HIV/AIDS to take place since more people will know how to protect themselves and are likely to practice safer intercourses. Moreover, many of them will pass this information to their children.
- Although there is a common belief that education suits only those who are healthy it can also improve the quality of life for people who are already HIV positive and have to change their lifestyles. They must be properly informed about the ways to stop the spread of the disease and empowered to improve their quality of life with the help of medical services and drugs. Moreover, they need moral support to stabilize them emotionally.
- Education reduces discrimination, which is crucial for countries, in which infected people are stigmatized out of fear and ignorance. For example, in some parts of India, such people can be even burnt to death; education must eliminate such extremes. Discrimination leads to the spread of the infection as people are afraid to undergo screening to avoid social consequences.
Thus, for the enumerated reasons, I firmly believe that increasing awareness of the population about the disease and providing people with an opportunity to undergo confidential testing is the best of the solutions discussed in the scenario.
Chiu, C. J., Menacho, L., Fisher, C., & Young, S. D. (2015). Ethics issues in social media–based HIV prevention in low-and middle-income countries. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 24(03), 303-310.
Duflo, E., Dupas, P., & Kremer, M. (2015). Education, HIV, and early fertility: Experimental evidence from Kenya. The American Economic Review, 105(9), 2757-2797.
Ott, M. A. (2014). Vulnerability in HIV prevention research with adolescents, reconsidered. Journal of Adolescent Health, 54(6), 629-630.