Can fertility treatments be done safely if the male has HIV? Apparently, yes.
Over the last 2 decades, researchers have improved methods of "washing" the semen of men infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
"The procedure is getting safer and safer," said Dr Deborah Anderson, a scientist at the Boston University School of Medicine who studies HIV. Washing the man's semen lowers the risk of transmission enough that "it's an acceptable ... procedure for couples that really want to have children."
In the new review, researchers looked at 17 earlier studies involving a total of about 1800 couples in which only the male partner had HIV.
In each of the studies, researchers performed one of two common types of fertility treatments
after washing the semen. Then they recorded how often women became pregnant after the procedures. They also monitored the women and any babies they had as a result of the procedures, to see whether HIV had been passed on from the semen.
About a third of the women had a procedure in which a single sperm is injected into a single egg; then the fertilized egg is placed into the woman's womb. This kind of fertility treatment is assumed to be safer for couples in which the male partner has HIV because it is easier to ensure that the sperm being used does not have the HIV virus.
The rest of the women had sperm injected directly into the womb, when their eggs were most likely to be there.
Roughly 50% the women became pregnant, and about 80 to 85% of the pregnancies resulted in the birth of a baby
None of the women in the study, or babies that were born after fertility treatments, tested positive for HIV. However, in a few of the studies in which researchers tested semen after it was washed, between two and eight of every 100 samples tested positive for HIV - indicating that it still may be possible, if unlikely, for the virus to be passed either to the woman or to the foetus.
If some of the samples did test positive for HIV, the amount of the virus was probably so small that it wasn't likely to be passed to the mother or baby. In addition, HIV transmission requires some sort of trauma to the woman's body because the virus is passed from semen to blood, and although there's a chance of that in intercourse, it's not likely in fertility treatment.
For now, fertility treatment is the safest possible option for these couples.
Would you consider fertility treatment and semen washing?