Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a kind of a virus that attacks immune system. Immune system is body’s way of fighting illnesses, bacteria, any unknown or threatening viruses. As HIV destroys the immune system, more concretely the cell called T-helper, body becomes gradually less capable to deal with infections and diseases.
HIV and surrogacy
HIV is found in breast milk, vaginal fluids and blood. For that reason, when we talk about HIV and surrogacy,in sake of safety, we refer to intended biological fathers only. As for males, HIV is found in semen, but after a procedure called ”sperm washing”, it is safe to proceed with IVF. Sperm itself, is resistant to HIV virus.
During sperm washing, sperm is separated from semen. The procedure removes dead sperm, debris, white blood cells and other chemicals that may lead to unexpected or undesired reactions and results during IVF. Sperm washing is performed not only in case of HIV, but also when males have lower sperm count or decreased sperm mobility, even when they experience unexplained infertility.
Sperm wash is usually performed in IVF clinics. The method may vary according to the clinic and individual characteristics of each case. Techniques include: centrifugation wash, density gradient wash and swim up technique.
After the molecular based sperm wash is performed, the clinic will usually double check the sample on HIV virus. After completing and confirming the procedure successfully, there is practically no chance of transmitting the HIV either to carrier(intended mother/ surrogate) or to the baby.
As sperm washing requires special equipment, different facilities and strong skills. Surrogacy agencies will usually charge a different fee for the HIV programs.
Requirements and communication with a surrogacy agency
Result oriented and professional surrogacy agencies, have requirements before they admit an HIV positive father to a program. In order for the IVF to make sense and be successful, it is essential to be under a treatment. Antiretroviral therapy is used to control the virus. Agencies will also require results of the tests that confirm that viral load is undetectable. The test should not be performed earlier than 6 months and should be followed by the second one at the time of going to the agency. Surrogacy agency will require additional medical tests such as HIV in semen, HBV/HCV in semen and so on.
If the viral load is too high, agencies will not be able to currently accept an intended dad to the program.
Assisted reproductive technologies(ART) have undoubtedly reached a high level of development.Thanks to medical breakthroughs, more and more people are becoming able to enjoy the magnificent joy of parenthood. Before choosing a surrogacy agency, we would recommend to have a very detailed conversation, because the case of HIV and surrogacy is still different from other IVF cases. Make sure that the agency supports you, understands your case and has a very specific action plan.
HIV positive dads should not feel confused or offended if the agency asks for too much details or tests. Vice versa, this is all done in order to ensure baby’s safety.