Age-of-consent requirements and adolescent HIV testing in low-and middle-income countries: multinational insights from 51 population-based surveys

Age-of-consent requirements and adolescent HIV testing in low-and middle-income countries: multinational insights from 51 population-based surveys
Joseph G Rosen, Elizabeth M Stone, Michael T Mbizvo
International Journal of STD & AIDS, 16 December 2022
Abstract
Background
Pervasive social and structural barriers—including national policies—inhibit HIV testing uptake among priority populations, including adolescents. We assessed the relationship between age-of-consent policies for HIV testing and adolescent HIV testing coverage in 51 low- and middle-income countries.
Methods
We pooled data from household surveys (2010–2020) and calculated the weighted country-level prevalence of lifetime HIV testing separately for adolescent girls and boys (ages 15–19). We then abstracted age-of-consent requirements for HIV testing across countries. Using multivariable linear regression, we estimated the average difference in national HIV testing coverage estimates for adolescent girls and boys by age-of-consent restrictions for HIV testing.
Results
National HIV testing coverage estimates ranged from 0.7% to 72.5% among girls (median: 18.0%) and 0% to 73.2% among boys (median: 7.5%) in Pakistan and Lesotho, respectively. In adjusted models, HIV testing coverage in countries requiring parental consent for individuals <18 years was, on average, 9.4 percentage-points (pp) lower (95% confidence interval [95%CI] −17.9pp to −0.9pp) among girls and 9.3pp lower (95%CI: −17.3pp to −1.2pp) among boys, relative to countries with less restrictive policies (age-of-consent: ≤16 years). Compared to countries with less restrictive (age-of-consent: ≤14 years) policies, HIV testing prevalence was significantly lower among girls (β −10.5pp, 95%CI: −19.7pp to −1.3pp) and boys (β −10.5pp, 95%CI –19.2pp to −1.8pp) in countries with more restrictive (age-of-consent: 18 years) parental consent requirements.
Conclusions
Age-of-consent policies are persistent obstacles to adolescent HIV testing. Repealing parental consent requirements for HIV testing is needed to expand coverage and accelerate progress towards global HIV treatment and prevention targets.

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