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Raising awareness of the UK egg and sperm donor shortage

26 September 2005
By Pip Morris
Donor Recruitment Manager for the National Gamete Donation Trust (NGDT)
Appeared in BioNews 327
Today, John Gonzalez, founder of the internet sperm firm Man Not Included, announced that he is launching a direct mailing campaign to attract new sperm donors. The mailshot will be sent to 50,000 men, to tackle the predicted shortage of donors following the announcement earlier this year that people conceived using donated eggs and sperm will be able to ask for identifying information about their donor when they reach the age of 18.

The National Gamete Donation Trust (NGDT) welcomes any initiative which raises the awareness and knowledge of the need for egg and sperm donation. We are the UK's only organisation that works together with licensed clinics to raise awareness of, and seek ways to alleviate, the national shortage of egg and sperm donors. We work only with licensed clinics to ensure that a good supply of properly health-screened gametes are made available to patients.

Although we welcome from any quarter the highlighting of the need for gamete donors to come forward, we have not worked with the internet sites which have appeared over recent years offering to put women in touch with sperm or egg donors for a fee. NGDT believes that it must be emphasised clearly that men donating fresh sperm will be operating outside of the national network of licensed fertility clinics. Only these can offer certain legal and safety guarantees to donors and patients.

The NGDT has been using targeted mailshots to approach potential donors for many years: since June 1999 we have commissioned and conducted extensive research into the issue of gamete donation and, therefore, we are able to identify and successfully target our mailshots. We work closely with GPs and the National Blood Service in such targeted mailshots, as well as the UK licensed clinics.

Nationally this year, we worked on the recent Public Awareness Campaign; this was extremely successful in raising knowledge and debate and during the first five months of this year, our media coverage was:

50 pieces of print referencing the 'Give Life, Give Hope' campaign;

61 pieces of print coverage including NGDT details;

54 pieces of print coverage where spokespeople or case studies were quoted;

89 pieces of coverage generated including 13 national and 11 magazine pieces;

Total amount of television coverage: 70 minutes;

Total amount of radio coverage: 5 hours.

Calls to our National Helpline (0845 226 9193) have increased by 500 per cent and the callers are all aware of the new legislation and the age groups needed for donation (18-45 for sperm donors and 18-35 for egg donors). There is always a significant and immediate increase in calls and enquiries following media coverage and they are all from motivated and committed potential donors. Since 1 January 2005, we have had over 15,000 visits to our website. Our website is a valuable resource enabling us to help others by reaching them in a different way; our newly launched bulletin board and chat rooms have become very popular.

Every person who contacts our office will receive prompt and knowledgeable information from experienced personnel. Information Packs and details of licensed clinics are sent out and follow up phone calls are made within 2-3 weeks.

We are glad that the donor recruitment issue is again in the spotlight. However, we very much hope that in this new effort to highlight the need for sperm donors to come forward, Man Not Included will make all donors aware of all the options available to them, and of the possible consequences of donating fresh sperm. It is important that potential donors are aware of the differences between the services offered by clinics licensed by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), and companies such as Man Not Included that operate outside this system.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
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