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National age-of-consent laws and adolescent HIV testing in sub-Saharan Africa: a propensity-score matched study
Authors: Britt McKinnon, and Ashley Vandermorris
Source: Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 97: 42–50; DOI: 10.2471/BLT.18.212993
Topic(s): HIV testing
Country: Africa
   Multiple African Countries
Published: NOV 2018
Abstract: Objective To estimate the association between legal age of consent and coverage of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing among adolescents in countries with high HIV-burden. Methods We analysed data from adolescents aged 15–18 years, who participated in Demographic and Health Surveys or AIDS Indicator Surveys between 2011 and 2016, in 15 sub-Saharan African countries. To improve balance in the distribution of measured individual- and country-level characteristics, we used propensity score matching between adolescents in countries with more versus less restrictive ageof- consent laws (= 15 years versus = 16 years). We estimated the percentage of individuals who self-reported that they have done an HIV test in the past 12 months and compared the differences in such testing rates among adolescents exposed to lower versus higher age-ofconsent laws. We also investigated effect modifications by sex and age. Findings Legal age of consent below 16 years was associated with an 11.0 percentage points higher coverage of HIV testing (95% confidence interval, CI: 7.2 to 14.8), corresponding to a rate ratio of 1.74 (95% CI: 1.35 to 2.13). HIV testing rate had a stronger association with lower age of consent among females than males. The testing rates differences were 14.0 percentage points (95% CI: 8.6 to 19.4) for females and 6.9 percentage points (95% CI: 1.6 to 12.2) for males (P-value for homogeneity = 0.07). Conclusion This study provides evidence to support the recent World Health Organization’s recommendations that countries should examine current laws and address age-related barriers to uptake of sexual and reproductive health services.