A St. Louis hospital is among the first in the country to provide HIV tests to patients 15 and older, without a parent or guardian’s consent, the Associated Press (AP)/The Joplin Globe reports (joplinglobe.com 6/26).

Under the policy, which takes effect this month, the tests are free and results will be available within minutes. The patient, not necessarily parents, will be presented with the results. Doctors say discretion is key if officials want young people to be tested.

“A lot of teenagers involved in high-risk behaviors won’t participate in the testing if the testing is not confidential,” said Ericka Hayes, a pediatrician at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “We really want to remove that from the equation and let the adolescent decide on testing for HIV. Otherwise teenagers engaging in high-risk behaviors often will not get tested.”

However, according to the article, the decision has come under fire by some conservative groups.

“When it comes to medical care, the parent should have absolute authority over whether a child is tested and should be the first notified of the results,” said Peter Sprigg, a vice president at the Family Research Council.

A 10-year analysis by Hayes showed an increase in new behavior-related cases of HIV in St. Louis involving people ages 13–24. And she said there are likely many more teens and young adults with HIV who don’t know it.