Articles

A critical review of the South African legal framework on adolescent access to HIV prevention interventions

J D Toohey, A Strode

Abstract


HIV remains a leading cause of death globally, with adolescents continuing to be one of the most at-risk population groups. Effective public health responses require an enabling legal environment to facilitate adolescent access to HIV prevention tools. South Africa (SA) is a good case study of a country with legislative reforms supporting public health HIV prevention programmes. A desktop review was conducted of relevant SA laws compared with key international norms such as age of independent consent and the right to confidentiality. This article reflects on whether the SA legal framework is a facilitator or barrier to adolescent access to key HIV prevention services such as HIV testing and HIV education. The findings indicate a clear recognition of evolving capacity and the inclusion of protections aimed at enhancing decisionmaking. International legal norms are, however, scattered, and not comprehensive enough to inform certain national policy choices. As such, developing a coherent approach to the evolving capacity and protection relating to age-appropriate decision-making can be a challenge for states legislating on adolescent access to HIV prevention interventions. This article highlights the fact that SA has largely created an enabling legal environment for adolescent access to HIV prevention. Nevertheless, there are a number of weaknesses in the SA legal framework, such as the divergent approaches between criminal and civil law regarding sexual activity among adolescents. It is recommended that further research be conducted on legal reform toward a coherent approach to support adolescent access to HIV prevention services.


Authors' affiliations

J D Toohey, School of Law, College of Law and Management Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

A Strode, School of Law, College of Law and Management Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

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Cite this article

South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2021;14(1):16. DOI:10.7196/SAJBL.2021.v14i1.00716

Article History

Date submitted: 2021-04-19
Date published: 2021-04-19

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