General practitioners are in prime position for promoting primary, secondary and tertiary HIV prevention. Counselling is an integral part of their work and a key step towards behavioural change of their patients. Particular attention must be given to counselling before and after the HIV antibody test. So far, the extraordinary potential of general practitioners to educate patients about HIV infection has been used insufficiently. The primary barriers to providing health education are lack of knowledge and discomfort with initiating discussions of sexuality or drugs use rather than lack of time or 'other health priorities', etc. These findings show the need to implement education programmes for physicians and other members of their medical practice. Additionally, patients should be encouraged to take the initiative in starting discussions about HIV. In Switzerland, an education programme for physicians is currently under way.