Healthcare workers (HCWs) infected with blood-borne illnesses present profound ethical and legal problems. While we seek to protect patients from threats and respect their right to bodily integrity and informed consent, we also recognize the right to privacy and the human rights interests of the infected worker to be free from discrimination. In the context of blood-borne illnesses, this balancing is profoundly influenced by the severity of the consequences of infection - there is no cure for illnesses such as hepatitis B, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, known to cause AIDS), and these diseases can be fatal. Under these conditions, a clear and reasoned approach to the issue of infected HCWs is needed.