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J Assoc Nurses AIDS Care. 2007 Mar-Apr;18(2):78-82.

Practice brief: adolescents and HIV clinical trials: ethics, culture, and context.

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Family Health International, Research Triangle Park, NC, USA.


One quarter of HIV infections globally occur among young people 15 to 24 years of age, and more than half of all new infections are in people younger than 25 years. Clearly, there is a need to identify and implement effective HIV prevention strategies among at-risk teens. Some of the most effective options for slowing the epidemic are biomedical, and several promising methods are in development, including microbicides, vaccines, and preexposure prophylaxis (PREP, or the daily use of antiretrovirals to prevent the acquisition of HIV). There is widespread reluctance to enroll minors in such biomedical prevention trials because of concerns about vulnerability related to physical maturity, experiential maturity, and diminished autonomy as well as legal and social challenges that vary across and within nations. However, excluding minors from trials misses an important opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness, acceptability, and safety of innovative interventions under the best conditions for identifying and resolving potential problems. The challenges of including minors in HIV prevention trials are highlighted through the example of one rural South African community that has been particularly devastated by the HIV epidemic.

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