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Should HIV positive people become parents?

Juliet Tizzard

Progress Educational Trust

29 March 2003

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[BioNews, London] This week's BioNews reports on a doctor's plea to make sperm washing for HIV positive men available on the National Health Service (NHS). Is it reasonable to ask that health authorities assist individuals or couples to become parents when they have such a serious health status?

Once upon a time, HIV positive people seeking to have a child would have been regarded as crazy. The HIV positive parent would not only have risked transmitting the virus to their child (and perhaps their partner), but the child would also be at risk of losing one of their parents at an early age. However, times have changed. Today, HIV is no longer regarded as an immediate death sentence. The average life expectancy of a person with HIV who has access to anti-retroviral drugs is 20 years. And for HIV-positive women, the risk of transmission to their baby can be as low as one or two percent, provided that certain precautions are taken. Added to these increased options for HIV people is sperm washing, which offers HIV positive men the opportunity of having a genetically related child whilst keeping to a minimum the risk of transmission to his partner and child.

With advances in drug therapies for HIV and in medical intervention to minimise the risk of transmission through reproduction, having children may not seem like such a risky strategy for HIV positive adults today. HIV-positive people want to live their lives as normally as possible and, for many, that will include having a family - something that the rest of us can contemplate without too many worries. Unless they are unlucky enough to have difficulty conceiving naturally, HIV positive don't actually need assisted conception treatments to get pregnant. They could leave things to chance and hope that the HIV virus is not transmitted - and no-one would be able to stop them. Thankfully, medical science can help to stack the odds in favour of patients and their prospective children. It seems unfair not to help them do this.

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 29 March 2003   Date Updated: 12 September 2004
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