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Voices of the Future:
Consenting to HIV Testing


Originally Aired:

Date: 25 May 2009
Program: Your Rights, Right Now! a weekly radio show from the Legal Assistance Centre.
Broadcast on: BASE fm, 106.2

Voices of the Future: Consenting to HIV Testing
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If you’ve been for an HIV-test, you know what it’s like.

There’s the registration, the pinprick, the blood test and then The Wait. The wait where the world seems like it’s sitting on your shoulders. The wait where every possible scenario runs through your mind. The wait where your imagination runs wild.

To go for an HIV test, you have to be ready. Ready for the unknown outcome.

But at the same time, it is an incredibly important wait. Knowing your status can be the difference between life and death in the long run so it is very important that people who need to have a test do take one.

But at what age is a person ready to go for an HIV test without permission from his or her parents? Is it 12, 14, 16, 18?

SCENE 1 - PRESENTER

Welcome to Your Rights, Right Now, a weekly show looking at human rights around Namibia. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare is revising the Child Care and Protection Bill and the public is being invited to give their opinions or raise their concerns before this draft becomes law.

Today we are looking particularly at the age of consent for medical testing, particularly at the age when a young person can go for an HIV test without his/her parents consent.

The infection level of HIV in Namibia has recently started to go down. Governments and communities want this trend to continue, so it is important to look at all policies to make sure they support the efforts of the governments.

It is very important for people to know their HIV status so that they can adopt responsible behaviours.

But what about youth? At what age should young people be able to go for HIV testing without their parent’s permission?

Recently, we asked a number of youth if 14 would be an appropriate age to consent for an HIV test. Here’s what they had to say:

VOX POP – FRANS

To the point of minors 14 and 16 year olds getting themselves tested, I don’t think they are mentally capable of just deciding for themselves to go for the test because as we all know they are still very dependant on their parents. Then just deciding they want to go out there and get themselves tested is not really a big yes because they do not really know the consequences and they live under their parents rule and really don’t know what’s good for them.
VOX POP – COUNNEY
I think 14 years olds should be allowed to go for HIV/Aids testing without the consent of their parents because why are we sent to school? To get taught things that our parents can not teach us, now in school we get taught about HIV/Aids and the risks they have now. When we go to school we get educated about these things so I think 14 year olds should be allowed to go for HIV testing. Everybody has the mental capacity or capability to know that New Start Centre you go there to get tested for HIV/Aids. Mostly it is contracted through sexual intercourse but its not the only way of contracting HIV/Aids so you can be 13, 14 or 15 and get infected by blood transfusion or something like that.
VOX POP – SUSANDI
The majority of HIV cases are amongst youth and we as young people don’t like talking about our sexual, what we do, like sexuality and things, like talking about it with our parents so we wouldn’t want our parents to know about our medical issues.
VOX POP – COUNNEY
Not many parents out there are very understanding, if I as a 14 year old go to my mother and tell her “mommy I think I should go for an HIV test”, we grew up in such a black society, many of our parents are still very traditional they still live in the olden times. When I as a 14 year old go to my mothers and tell her “mommy I need to go for an HIV test”, it’s like a slap in the face for her, what are you trying to say about her family, I don’t think they will accept it for you well but if you as a 14 year old child decide let me go for an HIV test and the results are positive or negative then you can go to your parents. Obviously they will be shocked if you are positive but they will give you the support that you need than when you go to them and say I want to go for and HIV test. They will tell you NO I am sorry but you are not going, what are you trying to say about our family or something like that.

VOX POP – JUNIOR
Actually I don’t even know why we are talking about getting permission from our parents because it our lives that are at risk here so we do not need to involve our parents in major decisions like this so if a 14 year old wants to get tested then let them get tested because if the person learns about their status then they will be able to know or make wiser decisions for their future.
There are people out there that are very hard-headed so if you get to know about your status you will definitely try and live a normal healthy life. Young people 14, 16, 17, 18 year olds, they are in a period of party-ness, they go to parties, they drink a lot and hang out a lot so because of this if they know about their status they will be cut out on their alcohol maybe they will eat healthy and look after themselves.
VOX POP – COUNNEY
When you are 14 and you get tested at an early age this will encourage you and motivate you keep on living a safe life because when you know about your status that you are negative or positive let’s say you are negative you will do everything in your power not to get positive, not to contract the disease, you will live more safe and be more protective, even if you are sexually engaged you’ll do things in a more protective manner.
VOX POP – JASON
I personally think that when us young people take the decision on going for testing this will make is ready for adulthood as in we will try to be more responsible and then it will also be an advantage for us in the future because learning to be responsible at an early age will have a major effect on you when you are older, you’ll be more cautious on the decisions that you are making and then you will also be open with your children about this HIV testing and stuff.
PRESENTER: SCENE 2
That was a group of young people talking about whether or not 14 year olds are ready to go for HIV testing by themselves.
In fact, the age of 14 is currently being suggested as the appropriate age that a person could go for HIV testing without the consent of their parents in the draft Child Care and Protection Act.
What do you think? Is 14 the right age for a young person to go for HIV testing without a parent’s permission? Or should it be another age – 12? 16? 18?
You can take part in this discussion. We’ll let you know how you can send your comment to the committee drafting this legislation in a minute.

PRESENTER: SCENE 3

Since we’re talking about the age that young people can go for HIV testing without their parents, let’s look at what other countries are doing. In South Africa a child over the age of 12 may consent to having an HIV test. In the United States, most states allow minors to consent to testing for all types of sexually transmitted infections. Some say that the minor must be a certain age (usually it’s 12 or 14, but most have no specific age limit).

The committee constructing this law wants to hear what you have to say.

At what age should a child be able to consent to an HIV test without the permission of a parent?

And what about this - should it be easier for a child to consent to having an HIV test than to consent to other medical procedures?

What do you think?

Help shape Namibia’s law by sending your comments by SMS to 081-424-1591. Or write a letter to PO Box 604, Windhoek. Finally, you can fax your thoughts to 088-613-715.

PRESENTER – CLOSING

For more information, contact the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare or the Legal Assistance Centre.

Your Rights, Right Now sends a big thank-you to the team at Physically Active Youth, to producers Mark Nonkes & Anne Joyce and to sound engineer Sammy Nakanyala. Special thanks to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare for revising the bill and UNICEF for the support they are giving to the process.

For Your Rights, Right Now, I’m Nunu asking the question: At what age should a child be able to consent to an HIV test without the permission of a parent?

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