The first sperm bank in the world for HIV positive donors has been launched in New Zealand. The donors that have been accepted have been diagnosed with HIV but are being treated to reduce their viral blood load to such a level that their sperm will not carry the infection to their children.
Three men have so far been accepted as donors for the sperm bank. If their sperm is requested, the intended receiver will be informed that the donor has HIV but that they have an undetectable viral load, meaning that the amount of the virus in the person's blood is so low that it cannot be detected by standard methods and will not infect anyone through unprotected sex, or from one generation to the next. The sperm bank, called 'Sperm Positive', is not a fertility centre but will put anyone wishing to use the donor sperm in touch with fertility clinics for treatment.
One of the aims of Sperm Positive is to reduce stigma for people who are HIV positive. Donor Damien Rule-Neal (who has chosen not to remain anonymous) said about taking part: 'Being able to help others on their journey is so rewarding, but I also want to show the world that life doesn't stop post-diagnosis and help to remove the stigma.'
Dr Mark Thomas, an infectious diseases specialist from the University of Auckland, thinks that lessening the stigma associated with HIV will have other positive effects. He said: 'Stigma can lead to inconsistent taking of medicines and result in much less effective treatment of HIV and risk of transmitting HIV. Fear of stigma and discrimination can stop people at risk from getting tested, and those living with HIV from accessing treatment and support.'
The initiative was created by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, Positive Women Inc and Body Positive and launched ahead of World AIDS Day 2019 on 1 December.