IVF Technique Helps HIV-Positive Men Become Fathers without Spreading Virus
HIV-positive men may be able to father children without passing the virus on to their wives or infants with the help of a medical technique that isolates sperm from white blood cells and the surrounding fluid where the virus is most likely to be found, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reports. The separated sperm is then tested for HIV and if negative, joined with an egg via in vitro fertilization, then implanted into the womb. Few U.S. fertility centers perform the procedure, and those that do, like the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School, keep their research "low profile" to avoid accusations that they place mothers and children at risk of HIV infection and opinions that men with potentially fatal diseases do not have a right to father children, the Pilot reports. To reduce the risk of transmission as much as possible, EVMS physicians limit their services to men with low virus levels and do not perform the technique on men with AIDS or on women with HIV. So far, three healthy children have been born as a result of the technique in the past 30 months, but EVMS research is "far too preliminary to make any generalizations about the procedure's effectiveness or safety." Columbia University professor of obstetrics and gynecology Mark Sauer also performs the technique and has enrolled 50 couples in a clinical trial that has produced 10 HIV-negative babies and 20 pregnancies in a little more than two years. European doctors using similar techniques have also helped HIV-positive men become fathers for 10 years. However, the CDC, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and WHO all recommend against inseminating a woman with sperm from an HIV-positive man, and several states, including Florida and California, maintain laws prohibiting medical procedures that place a woman at risk for contracting HIV. EVMS assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology Mahmood Morshedi said that as the lives of people with HIV are extended with antiretroviral therapy, they consider having families. The technique, he said, "can't be considered 100% safe. But it's certainly safer when compared to a couple engaging in unprotected intercourse. Risk-taking is part of human nature. We want to minimize temptation" (Szabo, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 4/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.