Parental Consent Laws Make Teens Vulnerable to HIV – World

Sexual activity often begins during puberty. Many countries have age-of-consent laws related to sexual activity that are inconsistent with laws regarding the minimum age for accessing sexual and reproductive health information and services without parental permission. This means teens can legally have sex before they can legally access any information or services related to safe sex practices or contraception, putting them at higher risk of HIV, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancy .

The repeal of laws requiring parental permission to access sexual and reproductive health services and HIV prevention, testing and treatment has been shown to improve health-focused behaviors. This effect is even stronger when schools can provide young people with age-appropriate comprehensive sex education to protect themselves from HIV, STDs, unwanted pregnancy, and gender-based and sexual violence.

Forty countries reported to UNAIDS in 2021 that they have laws requiring parental/guardian consent for access to hormonal or long-acting contraceptives, 108 reported that consent for HIV testing, 43 for HIV self-testing, 92 for HIV treatment is required and 22 for PrEP. Some of these countries provide exceptions based on proven maturity: 10 for hormonal or long-acting contraceptives, 15 for HIV testing, eight for self-testing, and nine for HIV treatment. The age limit of parental consent laws varied by service. The majority of countries reporting that parental/guardian consent is required had an age limit of 18, with exceptions in a few countries where youth from the age of 14 could access a service without parental/guardian consent, which varied by service.

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