New Zealand has launched the world’s first-ever HIV-positive sperm bank in the hopes of decreasing the stigma the virus tends to carry.
The sperm bank is called Sperm Positive, and it begins with three male donors around the country who have HIV but who are using treatments that have lowered the virus level to nearly undetectable levels. It’s not a cure but means the virus won’t spread as easily as it did previously, such as through sex without condoms or childbirth.
One such donor is Damien Rule-Neal, who was diagnosed in 1999 with HIV. About 18 years ago, doctors told him his virus load was undetectable. He said he has many friends with HIV who have had children. He said the problem is the lack of understanding and education in the public about what undetectable level means.
Rule-Neal said helping others in their journey to become parents is rewarding, but he wanted to show the world that life doesn’t end just because someone is HIV positive. He said the goal of this program was to eliminate the stigma attached to the virus.
The project, which was put together by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, Body Positive and Positive Women, Inc., is anticipated to teach people about how HIV is transmitted.
According to the online sperm bank, that HIV-positive donors must be on some form of effective treatment so that they cannot spread the virus.
The idea is not to work like a fertility clinic but rather match two parties together and put them in touch with a local fertility clinic.
Auckland University associate professor and Infectious Diseases Doctor Dr. Mark Thomas said the stigma surrounding HIV often leads to misuse of medication, which then lowers the effectiveness of the treatment and increases the chance of HIV spread.
He said discrimination fears often lead to people not getting tested for HIV and keep those who have it from getting the support and treatment they need.
The online bank launched before this year’s World AIDS Day, which is Dec. 1.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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