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Infectious Diseases - Obstetrics - Urology - Women's Health

Case Series of Fertility Treatment in HIV-Discordant Couples (Male Positive, Female Negative): The Ontario Experience
Published: Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Author: Trent Newmeyer et al.

by Trent Newmeyer, Sandy N. Tecimer, Denise Jaworsky, Steven Chihrin, Kevin Gough, Anita Rachlis, James Martin, Saira Mohammed, Mona R. Loutfy

The success of combination antiretroviral therapies for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has resulted in prolonged life expectancy (over 40 years from diagnosis) and an improved quality of life for people living with HIV. The risk of vertical HIV transmission during pregnancy has been reduced to less than 1%. As a result of these breakthroughs and as many of these individuals are of reproductive age, fertility issues are becoming increasingly important for this population. One population in which conception planning and reduction of horizontal HIV transmission warrants further research is HIV-discordant couples where the male partner is HIV-positive and the female partner is HIV-negative. Sperm washing is a technique carried out in a fertility clinic that separates HIV from the seminal fluid. Although sperm washing followed by intrauterine insemination significantly reduces the risk of horizontal HIV transmission, there has been limited access to the procedure in North America. Furthermore, little is known about the conception decision-making experiences of HIV-discordant couples who might benefit from sperm washing. Chart reviews and semi-structured interviews were completed with 12 HIV-discordant couples in Ontario, Canada. Couples were recruited through HIV clinics and one fertility clinic that offered sperm washing. Participants identified a number of factors that affected their decision-making around pregnancy planning. Access to sperm washing and other fertility services was an issue (cost, travel and few clinics). Participants identified a lack of information on the procedure (availability, safety). Sources of support (social networks, healthcare providers) were unevenly distributed, especially among those who did not disclose their HIV status to friends and family. Finally, the stigmatisation of HIV continues to have a negative affect on HIV-discordant couples and their intentions to conceive. Access to sperm washing and fertility service is significantly limited for this population and is accompanied with a number of challenges.