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 and their ability to understand the information. As a guide it is likely to be with children from aged 11 or 12 and 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.
With HIV testing, if a child is felt not to be competent to agree to being tested, their parent or carer will give 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 HIV positive 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 were seriously worried about your child and had worked with you for a long time to encourage you to have your child tested and you still refused.
If your child does not know you have HIV or you do not want them to know, this can make things difficult but not impossible. We believe that talking openly about HIV in the family (as with any other health condition) is a good thing. It shows children HIV is not something which is ‘bad’ or to be ‘feared’ and means as a family, you can support each other. But if this feels impossible, there are ways to test a child without directly telling them your HIV status (link to telling older children).
If you are interested in finding out more about consent for children and young people, the Department of Health has produced a guide called Consent: A guide for children and young people.