The policy debate over AIDS has focused on how to balance the rights of individuals who have the disease against the rights of the public. This paper examines the nature of both sets of rights by analyzing the development of public health law and its dominant visions today. The article argues that while once public health rights implied a vast reserve of community authority and obligation to prevent illness, today the rights of the public and those of individuals are seen as being in opposition. Public health jurisprudence now presupposes that illness is primarily a matter of individual concern. In this view, the science of medicine mediates the relationship between the individual and the public. This understanding of rights protects some of the interests of infected individuals, but is inadequate for addressing many of the major problems raised by the AIDS epidemic, particularly the spread of infection among the uninfected.

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