HIV Prevention in Adolescents Faces Legal Barriers
Laws vary from state to state regarding parental consent when it comes to medical treatment for adolescents. This in itself is not a bad thing as parents have defined rights when it comes to their children’s health. However, when it comes to HIV prevention and research, these laws could pose a public health issue. For some regions, lines are blurred between what constitutes treatment or therapy, and prevention (particularly for HIV and other STDs), and what types of rights adolescents have when it comes to these matters.
Studies are conclusive when it comes to the number of young adults contracting HIV. The facts are:
- The second largest at-risk population are individuals aged 13 to 24.
- Of the new infections reported in the United States, researchers found 23% are in this age group.
- Out of that number, over 70% are young gay and bisexual men.
- This high-risk group would greatly benefit from certain preventative measures, such as safer sex practices, and using antiretroviral therapies for those who are not HIV-positive.
This latter method has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of contracting the virus. Not only would these measures aid young persons who are at the highest risk of transmitting and contracting the virus, but it could also help stem the growing tide of HIV outbreaks.
What Can Aid Prevention in Adolescents?
The ethical side is clear, and poses no threat. The legalities are what stand in the way. Each state has different laws governing parental consent. Most of these hinge on treatment, not necessarily prevention. It would essentially clear the roadblock if lawmakers and health officials collaborated, amending certain laws to allow for prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in minors without parental consent.
Another approach is to create clear legal boundaries between treatment and prevention. This could help in areas where laws are not clear-cut, yet tie the hands of healthcare workers as far as aiding the younger population in preventative care. Lastly, having a consistent law code in this regard would also help assure that this particular type of care could be given and received anywhere within the US.