California Senate Committee To Debate Bill That Would Allow HIV-Positive Men To Have Sperm Washed, Used for Fertility Treatments
The California Senate Health Committee on Wednesday is scheduled to debate a bill (SB 443) that would allow HIV-positive men to have their sperm washed and used for fertility treatments -- including artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization -- under certain guidelines, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Lucas, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/27). The state in 1989 began prohibiting HIV-positive people from donating sperm, blood or tissue in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. The law has prevented HIV-positive men from using reproductive technologies that lower the risk of transmitting HIV to their partners. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Carole Migden (D), would allow couples that include HIV-positive men to use reproductive technology under the following guidelines: the HIV-positive donor's sperm is processed to minimize the risk of HIV transmission; informed mutual consent has occurred; and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine recognizes the sperm processing procedures. California is one of two states where couples with an HIV-positive man cannot undergo fertility treatments with his donated sperm, Deborah Cohan, medical director of the Bay Area Perinatal AIDS Center, said. She added that many of those couples try to conceive through intercourse, which increases the risk of HIV transmission to the woman and, potentially, to the infant. Of the 3,800 reported cases outside California in which couples with an HIV-positive man have used reproductive technology, not one case of HIV transmission has been reported, according to Cohan (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/7).
Cohan said that the bill "has nothing to [do] with how someone got HIV," adding, "It has everything to do with the rights of individuals with HIV and the partners of individuals with HIV." A survey conducted by Cohan among 67 fertility centers in the state found that 80% of the centers would provide services to couples with an HIV-positive man if the law were changed, according to the Chronicle. Migden said, "It's in society's interest to give these couples a safe method of reproduction," adding, "A clean procedure is available. Making it available in California is a positive step the government can take to produce healthy children." There is no listed opposition to the bill, and it has the tentative support of at least one Republican on the committee, according to the Chronicle. State Sen. Sam Aanestad (R), vice chair of the panel, said, "There needs to be some stronger oversight built into the bill, but allowing an HIV-[positive] person to lead a normal life with their spouse and/or partner to procreate -- I'm absolutely for that." He added, "Government should be in the business of encouraging those kinds of family decisions and mak[ing] sure it's safe for everybody" (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/27).