I need to summarize the article that follows: Objectives. We examined the process of obtaining "active," written parental consent for a school-based HIV/AIDS prevention project in a South...

I need to summarize the article that follows:

Objectives. We examined the process of obtaining "active," written parental consent for a school-based HIV/AIDS prevention project in a South African high school by investigating parental consent form re[urn rates, parents' recall and knowledge of the research, and the extent to which this consent procedure represented parents' wishes about their child's involvement in the research.

Methods. This cross-sectional descriptive study comprised interviews with parents of children in grades eight and nine in a poor, periurban settlement in Cape Town.

Results. Within 2 weeks, 94% of 258 parents responded to a letter requesting written consent and of those, 93% consented, but subsequent interviews showed that 65% remembered seeing the consent form. At the end of the interview, 99% consented to their child's participation.

Conclusions. These findings challenge many of the assumptions underlying active written parental consent. However, they should not be used to deny adolescents at high risk of HIV infection the opportunity to participate hi prevention trials. Rather, researchers together with the communities in which the research is undertaken need to decide on appropriate informed consent strategies.

Expert Answers
Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is an incredibly interesting study about South Africa, one of the places with the highest HIV infection rates in the world. Probably the first thing to understand is that this study is NOT about the success rates of HIV prevention in school, the quality of HIV education, or even the desire for student participation. No, … this study is about PARENTAL CONSENT. The reasoning is because The National Institute of Health REQUIRES active consent (which is what is required in the USA, designed to give parents the biggest amount of rights). This is as opposed to passive consent, where a parent need only receive a form and send in a refusal, if desired. No further contact from the parent means consent for participation. The people conduction the study believes that passive consent is better for everyone involved than active consent. However, active consent is absolutely required. Here is why:

The National Institute of Health funds South African school-based HIV prevention research but requires active consent, so we have examined the process of obtaining active, written parental consent in the South African context.

Unfortunately, this study finds that requiring this active consent may prevent the important HIV education being provided because of lack of parental involvement. Probably the most important sentence in the study is as follows:

We believe that in South African school settings, this standard of consent, if widely applied, would artificially lower the proportion of parents who wish to have their child included in low-risk studies of educational and informational interventions.

In other words, the roadblocks involved to gaining active consent from parents would actually do more harm than good due to the intervention involved.  The researchers mention many negative issues in regards to gaining active consent such as parents and students being at odds with each other, students forging parent consent, time periods needed for obtaining this active consent, lack of parental understanding, etc. Further, the people holding the study asked for a return to “passive” consent (which means, a form is sent home asking for refusal, … if no refusal is requested, the intervention can begin and consent is considered gained). As an addendum to the article, the information portrayed to parents was included.