Adolescent Barriers to HIV Prevention Research: Are Parental Consent Requirements the Biggest Obstacle?



      One third of people newly living with HIV/AIDS are adolescents. Research on adolescent HIV prevention is critical owing to differences between adolescents and adults. Parental permission requirements are often considered a barrier to adolescent enrollment in research, but whether adolescents view this barrier as the most important one is unclear.


      Adolescents were approached in schools in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and at a sexually transmitted infection clinic at the Children’s Hospital of Aurora, Colorado. Surveys with a hypothetical vignette about participation in a pre-exposure prophylaxis trial were conducted on smartphones or tablets with 75 adolescents at each site. We calculated descriptive statistics for all variables, using 2-sample tests for equality of proportions with continuity correction. Statistical significance was calculated at p < 0.05. Multivariate analyses were also conducted.


      Most adolescents thought side effects (77%) and parental consent requirements (69%) were very important barriers to research participation. When asked to rank barriers, adolescents did not agree on a single barrier as most important, but the largest group of adolescents ranked parental consent requirements as most important (29.5%). Parental consent was seen as more of a barrier for adolescents in South Africa than in the United States. Concerns about being experimented on or researchers’ mandatory reporting to authorities were ranked much lower. Finally, most (71%, n = 106) adolescents said they would want to extra support from another adult if parental permission was not required.


      Adolescents consider both parental permission requirements and side effects important barriers to their enrollment in HIV prevention research. Legal reform and better communication strategies may help address these barriers.


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      Linked Article

      • HIV Prevention in Adolescents: Removing Obstacles and Protecting Human Rights
        Journal of Adolescent HealthVol. 67Issue 4
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          A disturbingly high proportion of new HIV infections occur in adolescents and young adults, and far too many young people are dying of AIDS-related illnesses. As noted by Shah et al. [1] in their important study of obstacles to HIV prevention research in adolescents, globally one-third of new HIV infections are in the 15- to 24-year age group. HIV prevention for young people is therefore an essential public health imperative. Successful HIV prevention efforts must include research, outreach and education, HIV testing and counseling, and access to preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as well as HIV treatment.
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