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Reproductive Science Helps Women With HIV-Positive Partners Give Birth

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Although sexually transmitted diseases are a very serious matter no matter what an individual is facing, HIV is perhaps the most frightening diagnosis for many individuals. Even with vastly improved life-expectancy rates, there are a number of concerns that individuals and those who have HIV-positive partners face throughout their lives. One of the biggest concerns for those who have HIV is whether or not they will have the opportunity to conceive children.

It is absolutely imperative that among couples in which one partner is infected with HIV and the other is not that protection is used whenever intercourse occurs. This means that a couple in which one partner has HIV cannot conceive naturally—at least, not in a responsible manner. However, studies in reproductive medicine have investigated whether or not the sperm of men that have been infected with HIV can successfully impregnate women while still leaving both mother and child HIV-free.

It sounds like a scary and risky procedure, and there has certainly been a lot of debate over whether these kinds of studies are wise. However, this study has shown that there does not seem to be a risk of infection in cases where the male sperm has been “washed” and the woman has been artificially impregnated. This is intriguing news not only for researchers that study the mechanics of HIV, but also for doctors who specialize in reproductive help. It means that there seem to be more options for couples in which at least one partner is infected. Unfortunately, pregnancy among HIV-infected women can still be dangerous, as the virus can transmit to the infant either during pregnancy or childbirth, and much more needs to be done to determine the possibilities for couples during these cases.

Overall, it is intriguing news and it will certainly continue to raise a lot of questions for those that specialize in women’s health and reproductive medicine. However, it is imperative for any couples in which one partner is infected with HIV to realize that it is necessary to seek medical advice when the issue of conception comes up. Even if the possibility for a safe pregnancy is there, it is better to seek the advice of professionals and to avoid any potential infection. Childbirth is a wonderful and a beautiful experience, but currently the best option for these couples is still to seek alternate methods to become parents.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.