Article 16: Respecting confidentiality and the right to privacy

Article 16 of the UN Convention states that children have a right to privacy. This means that children are entitled to respect for privacy and confidentiality, for example, in getting advice and counselling on health matters, depending, of course, on their age and understanding. Governments are expected to introduce laws and regulations to ensure that older children are able to seek medical help in confidence. As a health worker, you need to know what the law says about keeping the medical information of older children confidential, and to protect that confidentiality as far as possible.


Respecting confidentiality means that information is kept a secret. It means that information about the child, or things that the child has talked about should not be disclosed to anyone else unless the child agrees.

Respect for confidentiality is important as young people are likely to avoid seeking medical help if they fear either that they will not be seen without their parents or, that if seen alone, their parents will be notified. Clear and well-publicised policies that confidentiality will be respected will encourage children to approach a nurse or doctor. They should then feel free to discuss their situation more frankly and explicitly than might otherwise be the case. The outcome will certainly be better access to health care and earlier interventions to promote good health. There are many circumstances where the principle of respecting confidentiality is of crucial importance to children’s safety, well-being and dignity.

They maintain confidentiality for common diseases. But for STIs, no confidentiality. You can go to the dispensary to be treated and then you find that after a few days, people know what was your problem and even the meds you were given.

If I go to the dispensary on my own, my parents should not be told without my permission. Some sicknesses are my private affair.

(From the consultation undertaken in Tanzania for the development of this module)

Article 12: Listening to children and taking their views seriously

Article 17: Ensuring that the child has access to age appropriate information