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29 January 2013

New guidelines for counselling and testing children for HIV

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

A new set of guidelines and training tools dealing with the legal, ethical and counselling issues related to HIV testing of children is now available for HIV/AIDS practitioners working with children.

Dr Heidi van Rooyen, project team leader and research director at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), explains: “These guidelines explore in simple and practical terms the psychosocial implications as well as the legal and policy obligations relating to HIV counselling and testing of children.

“The tools describe what practitioners can do to ensure that HIV testing of children takes place in a way that protects and promotes their rights and is conducted in their best interests.”


HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) is the most important entry point for HIV-related treatment, care, support and prevention.

A significant number of children in South Africa live with HIV. According to figures provided by the Department of Health, an estimated 32 940 children under 15 years of age were living with HIV and AIDS but were not on treatment. These facts highlight that every effort must be made to facilitate HIV testing in this population within the framework of applicable legislation and policy. Once tested, children can be placed on treatment, and linked to care and support.

The HSRC, through the SA National AIDS Council (SANAC), was commissioned to provide technical support to the Department of Health to ensure implementation of the goals for voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) as set out in the 2006-2011 National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIs and TB (NSP). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided the funding for this initiative.   

The process

Through an extensive consultative process with key staff from the Department of Health, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), civil society, non-governmental organisations, academics, policy makers and practitioners working with children more generally and in HIV/AIDS specifically, the HSRC led the development of a series of implementation guidelines and training tools, dealing with the legal, ethical and counselling issues related to HIV testing of children.

This package of tools, announced in Pretoria, Sweetwaters outside Pietermaritzburg and Cape Town are also available on this website and include: a trainers’ manual, participants’ manual, legal guidelines for implementers, as well as counselling and testing implementation guidelines. A CD containing all these resources is also being made available.

Download the tools:

For interviews or further information, please contact:

Ina van der Linde, Science Communication, HSRC: tel: +27(0)12 302 2024 // cell phone:  +27(0)823310614 // e-mail:

Julian Jacobs, director, tel: +27(0)21 466 8042 // cell phone: +27(0)833266821 // e-mail:

The tools have been extremely well received and have attracted attention beyond our borders, receiving a special mention in the editorial of the prestigious Lancet Journal:

In 2010, the South African Government launched a massive campaign to test 15 million people for HIV in 12 months. One element was to offer voluntary testing and counselling in schools, which raised concerns as to whether this delicate aspect would be handled appropriately. These new guidelines finally provide the information that was missing.

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