Be legally wise: When is parental consent required for adolescents’ access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)?

Be legally wise: When is parental consent required for adolescents’ access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)?
Ann Strode, Catherine M. Slack, Zaynab Essack, Jacintha D. Toohey, Linda-Gail Bekker
Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine, 10 November 2020
Open Access
Abstract
Background
South African adolescents (12–17 years) need an array of prevention tools to address their risk of acquiring the life-long, stigmatized condition that is HIV. Prevention tools include pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). However, service providers may not be clear on the instances where self-consent is permissible or when parental consent should be secured.
Aim
To consider the legal norms for minor consent to PrEP using the rules of statutory interpretation.
Setting
Legal and policy framework.
Results
We find that PrEP should be interpreted as a form of ‘medical treatment’; understood broadly so that it falls within the ambit of one of consent norms in the Children’s Act. When PrEP is interpreted as ‘medical treatment’, then self-consent to PrEP is permissible for persons over 12 years, if they have the mental capacity and maturity to understand the benefits, risks, social and other implications of the proposed treatment. Currently, PrEP is only licensed for persons over 35 kg. Reaching the age of 12 years is a necessary but not sufficient criteria for self-consent and service-providers must ensure capacity requirements are met before implementing a self-consent approach. Decisional support and adherence support are critical.
Conclusions
We recommend that service-providers should take steps to ensure that those persons who meet an age requirement for self-consent, also meet the capacity requirement, and that best practices in this regard be shared. We also recommend that policy makers should ensure that PrEP guidelines are updated to reflect the adolescent consent approach articulated above. It is envisaged that these efforts will enable at-risk adolescents to access much needed interventions to reduce their HIV risk.

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