BANGKOK (AlertNet) – The Philippines is looking at dropping the age of consent for HIV testing from 18 to 15 in order to tackle a substantial increase in infections among teenagers, a government official says.
The need for parental consent prevents many young Filipinos from knowing their HIV status and accessing vital services for fear of stigma and rejection by their families, aid workers say.
This is a particular concern for high-risk groups – sex workers, men who have sex with men, injecting drug users and transgender people.
Noel Del Prado, a lawyer with the Council for the Welfare of Children, the government’s inter-agency body for children, said the move to drop the age of consent was “a major step forward” given the rising number of new HIV infections, especially among young people in these vulnerable groups.
The lower age limit is likely to be introduced in late 2012 or early 2013 at the latest, he told AlertNet on the sidelines of a high-level intergovernmental meeting on HIV/AIDS in Bangkok this week.
“The Philippine National AIDS Council have noted … the requirement of parental consent for HIV testing of children contributes, together with other factors, to the substantial increase in HIV infections, especially among key affected populations … which include a lot of adolescent children,” Del Prado said.
While HIV prevalence among the general population in Philippines remains low, at less than one percent, new HIV infections are doubling every year due to inadequate prevention efforts and poor knowledge of risky behaviour among vulnerable groups, a top U.N. official told AlertNet.
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