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Sperm washing for HIV patients

Kirsty Horsey

Progress Educational Trust

29 March 2003

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[BioNews, London] Dr Carole Gilling-Smith, from the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, has called for the UK government to support the use of a 'sperm washing' technique for HIV patients. The technique, which involves the use of fertility treatments, may enable HIV positive men to have children with less risk of passing on the virus to either their partners or their children. Dr Gilling-Smith wants it to be available to couples on the National Health Service (NHS).

The sperm washing technique was pioneered in Milan, Italy, in 1988. The latest research, carried out by Dr Gilling-Smith's team at the London hospital, involved 53 couples in which the male partner is
affected by HIV. The partners of 16 of the HIV positive men became pregnant after using the technique.

The technique itself is 'simple'. The HIV virus is thought to be present in seminal fluid, while sperm do not carry HIV. The sperm are
first centrifuged to separate them from the semen, then 'washed' several times to remove the remaining fluid. The remaining sperm are placed in a substitute fluid which is then inseminated into the woman.

Dr Gilling-Smith has called for the procedure to be available on the NHS because it would, in the long run, lower costs by lowering the number of mothers and children who need treatments for HIV.
'Nothing is 100 per cent safe in life' she said, adding 'what we try to do is reduce that risk. Until this was available, couples had no
option but to risk unprotected sex, or to resort to donor sperm - or to live a life without children'.

© 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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