Confidentiality has always been a pledge that is likely to be asked by anyone when disclosing sensitive information to an authority, specialist, or even a friend. More often than not, the party to whom any information is to be disclosed would promise that none of it would ever be relayed to anyone else. Yet, this pledge of confidentiality is not, and cannot be made absolute especially if the client and other parties are in jeopardy and disclosing the case of the client in court is necessary to ensure the safety of the client or a third party (Herlihy and Corey, 2007).
Aside from the court scenario, another case when confidentiality is often breached is when the client needs protection from a third party (Herlihy and Corey, 2007). Therefore, should something revealed by a client to a counselor be a reason of concern for the safety of others, the counselor may breach the confidentiality of the statements of the client. This leads to the common notion of doing what is for the greater good. Keeping the confidentiality only satisfy the will of the client, but it may pose greater danger to the community.
Logically, if anything can pose danger to the client and to anyone else, it can also be a cause of being troublesome. Even if the secret is kept, the client will have no peace of mind. Hence, greater harm can be done if something that has to be disclosed to other authorities will be kept a secret just for the sake of confidentiality. The case of Norma has brought nothing out of the conditions in the code of ethics of the American Counseling Association (ACA). Norma has gone out with Javier for some time and other men, too.
Javier refused safe sex. The problem has been that Norma was diagnosed with HIV virus, but she could not determine whether she got it from Javier, because she also engaged in unsafe sex with other men aside from Javier. The danger that has been posed here is that Javier may be infected with HIV but does not know it. Worse, he prefers unsafe sex over safe sex, so if he comes in contact with other women and have sex with them without protection, more lives would be in danger of acquiring the deadly virus.
The dilemma of the counselor is that Norma to reveal her health condition to Javier in fear of being harmed physically, which is very possible based on the character of the man as she has narrated. Hence, it appears that if Norma’s condition remains a secret to Javier, he may infect other women with the virus in case she had infected him or he had infected her. On the other hand, if Javier finds out Norma’s condition, she would be he one in danger of physical harm Javier might inflict.
Abiding by the ethics, the counselor should explain to Norma that Javier has to know whether he ha HIV or not, because he is a possible transmitter of the disease. She has to understand that revealing her health condition to Javier would help prevent further infections. As for the possible dangers that Javier might pose on the life of Norma, Section B. 3. b of the ACA code of ethics states provisions of disclosing the case to other professionals, who will be part of the team that would take care of the client (Herlihy and Corey, 2007).
The counselor must first secure a copy of the diagnosis that states that Norma has HIV. This is important in order to have authenticated proof about he condition of Norma when counselor asks for assistance from other authorities. Norma will have to be informed about the actions of the counselor and why it has to be done. She should know who else will know about her condition and be given assurance of confidentiality. To further convince her, she should be informed about the limitations of confidentiality Naggy, 2005 in Corey, Corey & Callanan, 2002).
In this case, should she need police protection, only the commanding officer should know about her condition and the officers, who would be tasked to ensure her security, may not know about her case. The State of Florida adheres to the America Counseling Association Code of Ethics, so all the guidelines stated in the ACA Code of Ethics can be taken into effect. There is, however, another provision from the National Board of Certified Counselors (2005) which states that a client should also be responsible in case when he/she is involved in a life-threatening situation, which, in this case is Norma’s HIV infection.
A counselor is not a god to dictate what is right and wrong and what is good or bad and who is good or bad. However the code of ethics clearly states the proper action to be done in the case of Norma. Javier may pose danger to her and that is why she would need other help. Norma can even have a better chance of making the most out of her life if she “gets out of her box”. Revealing Norma’s condition to Javier can even help Javier change his attitude towards sex. In case he has not been infected, he can change his ways towards a safer way of living.
In case he was the source of infection, authorities could further track down the other possible victims of the HIV transmission. Should Javier pose a threat to Norma, authorities would be able to apprehend him and send him to where he cannot infect anyone, in case he is infected. As a citizen of this country, Norma should realize where she went wrong and be able to amend that mistake. In the same way, the counselor should also give greater weight to the benefit of the majority, for her oath is not just to one person but to whole nation and to humanity.
Thus, in a broader perspective, disclosing Norma’s condition to qualified authorities can bring the client to a win-win situation. References Corey, G. , Scheider-Corey, M. & Callanan, P. 7th Ed. (2002). Issues and Ethics in the Helping Professions. Wadsworth Publishing Co. Inc. Herlihy, Barbara and Gerald Corey. (2005) ACA Ethical Standards Casebook. Alexandria: American Counseling Association. National Board for Certified Counselors.