Doctors may feel uncomfortable with the prospect of discussing a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) antibody test with their patient. This is in part because they do not enquire about high risk activity as part of a medical history. With increasing medical and public awareness of both the clinical manifestations and social implications of HIV infection, it is important that all doctors receive guidance on how to deal with these issues. Counselling is not the usual term used to describe obtaining informed consent. In the general medical setting, tests for hepatitis B and syphilis are routinely carried out without specific consent even though results of these tests may have profound effects on both the patient and their sexual partners. However society and ethical considerations have made HIV testing different. HIV testing will inevitably become more widespread, and thus become a more routine part of patient investigation and management.