ASWB Exam Prep: HIV

By Heidi Tobe on May 2, 2022

As a coach, I get a lot of questions on HIV and how it will show up on the exam. Are we required to maintain confidentiality of a person’s status? What if they are having unprotected sex and not telling their partner(s)? Doesn’t this fall under duty to warn? 

HIV on the LMSW and LCSW exams

These are all great questions! The answer to most of these for our actual practice is: it depends. This is an area where what to do depends largely on individual state laws. A lot of people don’t know this, but the LMSW/LCSW exams are national exams given by the ASWB. So state laws are not tested. While it is SUPER important to know the state specific answers to these questions for our practice, it is not needed for the exam. So often times, if you see the answer:

‘Follow jurisdictional regulations’


‘Refer to local laws’

those are the answers you’d want to go with.

So what do you do if you don’t see an answer to follow state/jurisdictional regulations and you have a situation where a person is having unprotected sex and not informing their partner(s) of their status? This is a situation where you would try to work with the client to be honest with their partner(s). Then practically speaking, you'd ultimately need to follow your state laws/regulations or determine your next step according to individual state regulations.


Duty to warn and HIV

In terms of the question as to whether or not this falls under our duty to warn, the answer is ‘no.’ This does not fall under our duty to warn. The general idea is that this does not fall under Tarasoff/duty to warn regulations because adults enter into sexual relationships assuming some level of risk. And there's no guarantee you could prevent disease transmission even if you did notify the partner. 

ASWB HIV Practice Question:

A social worker meets with a client who discloses they are HIV+ and are having unprotected sex with their long-term partner who does not know their status. The social worker and client discuss the importance of openness with the partner, but the client refuses, expressing concern that the partner will end their relationship. The social worker is concerned about the risk to the client’s partner. What should the social worker do?

A. Express their concerns to the client.

B. Honor the client’s right to self-determination while further exploring their concerns.

C. Inform the partner without disclosing the identity of the client.

D. Consult with a colleague.

(scroll for answer and rationale)

HIV testing




















The correct answer is B: Honor the client’s right to self-determination while further exploring their concerns. It isn’t our place to express our concerns to the client, as this is placing our values on them. C is breaking the client’s confidentiality (not to mention that the long-term partner would likely know the identity of the client even if the social worker did not explicitly say it). And for purposes of the test, there is no reason to do D at this point. If the question stem said something like ‘the social worker is unsure of how to proceed’ or ‘the social worker doesn’t know if they have a duty to warn the partner’ then consultation would be a good next step. But as it is written, there is no need to consult at this time.

ASWB masters (LMSW) and clinical (LCSW) exam preparation

Were you able to answer today’s practice question correctly? Or do you need some additional support around this topic? If you’re currently preparing for your LMSW or LCSW exams and aren’t feeling 100% confident, we encourage you to check out some of our real client testimonials. We’ve helped THOUSANDS of social workers pass with confidence. One of my favorite parts of TDC as a customer is that EVERY program includes access to a coach who you can email with any questions that come up as you’re going through the program. Our coaches will always get back to you within 2 business days with a personalized response, but are often able to get back to you even sooner. We never want you to feel alone on this journey and are with you until you pass. We never charge for extensions and there are never any hidden costs or fees. Are YOU ready to pass with confidence?

Already licensed?

Great news! Amanda’s vision for TDC has always been more than just exam prep (hence the name Therapist Development Center). We’ve been hard at work expanding our continuing education offerings. Just like TDC’s exam prep, our CE courses are engaging, informative, and exist to truly make you a better therapist. As all CEs should be (but often are not), they are about so much more than just checking off your required hours. 

If today’s blog piqued your interest and you're looking to increase your professional knowledge and skills related to HIV/AIDS, check out our 7 hour course 'Beyond the Stigma: Seeing the Human in HIV.' I also encourage you to check out our newest course: ‘On the Edge of Life: Introduction to Treating Suicidality.’ It is a humanistic and phenomenological approach to the treatment of suicidality. Unlike other courses that rattle off statistics and leave you at a loss as to what to do after determining someone's risk level, the Edge of Life Model is holistic, practical, and grounded in evidence-based practices to leave you truly equipped to meaningfully treat your clients.


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