Consent to testing

The UK law says that a child must consent to testing or treatment if that child is seen to be ‘competent’. This means that the child is deemed able to understand the information he/she is being told, and can make a decision about it.

There is no specific age guideline given for this and it will depend on each individual child. As a guide it is likely to be around age 11 or above. This law on consent for children is known as the Fraser Guidelines (or the Gillick Competency) which you can read more about on the NSPCC website

If a child is felt not to be competent to agree to being tested for HIV, the health team will need parent/carers permission to test the child. By law, healthcare professionals only need one person with parental responsibility to give consent for them to test. If the child is being looked after by the local authority, the local authority designated to care for the child will need to consent.

It is important to know that the health team can seek permission to test your child for HIV if they are very worried that your child could be living with HIV and you refuse to have them tested. It is possible for a local authority to go to court and ask the court to make an order to have the test done. The court can override parents’ wishes, but only if this is in the best interests of the child. This action would only be taken as a last resort, if the doctors had worked with you for a long time to encourage you to have your child tested and you still refused.

If you are interested in finding out more about consent for children and young people, the Department of Health produced a guide called Reference Guide to consent for examination or treatment.