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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

BU: Professor Receives $2.7 Million to Study Impact of Minor Consent Laws

Dr. Kimberly Nelson, assistant professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health, has received a five-year, $2.7 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health for a study that includes a first-ever content analysis of state consent laws for minors seeking human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and sexually transmitted infections (STI) services in the United States. Dr. Nelson is the principal investigator of the study, which began in December. 

Dr. Nelson and the team of researchers will examine how confidentiality laws relate to adolescents’ use of HIV/STI testing, treatment, and prevention services. They will also examine adolescents’ awareness of the laws, what they think the laws should be, and how best to relay information about consent rights to youth. Youth ages 13-17 are disproportionately affected by HIV/STI, but concerns about the confidentiality of their medical records and beliefs that guardian permission will be required prevent most adolescents from seeking these services. Many states have enacted laws that permit youth to waive guardian consent for HIV/STI services, but there is little research that explains the impact of these laws on adolescents’ decision to seek testing, treatment, and prevention services for HIV/STI.

Dr. Nelson says that the lack of awareness among youth of minor consent laws, and the variation in these laws from state to state, contribute to the gap in HIV/STI medical service use among youth.

“Many youth don’t necessarily know about their right to self-consent, guardians don’t know about youths’ rights to consent, and it’s even possible that medical providers aren’t fully aware of all of the rules pertaining to these laws, because they are fairly complicated,” she says.

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