Trying to conceive when sex isn’t safe

There are many couples in the U.S. who can’t conceive the old fashion way. It isn’t safe. This is because one or the other of them has an infectious disease like Hepatitis or HIV that could be transmitted to their partner. For these couples, having a child of their own seems completely out of reach. They would love to have a family but do not want to risk infecting their partner. That’s where we come in. We can help.

If it is the female who has the infectious disease, then she first needs treatment to bring down the level of virus in her system to an undetectable level. This will help prevent transmission to the child. In the case of HIV, for instance, a c-section is also usually recommended to help prevent transmission to the baby. She will undergo counseling with an infectious disease expert so she understands exactly what the risks are to her and her child. We can then put sperm directly into her uterus on the day she is ovulating (intra-uterine insemination). This is a simple, quick procedure that feels a lot like a PAP smear. It will prevent her partner from being infected through intercourse.

Things get a little more complicated when it is the male who has the infectious disease. HIV and Hepatitis B & C can be found in the semen, even when the blood tests show no virus in the bloodstream. The female can be vaccinated against Hepatitis B, but there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C or HIV. Therefore the patient’s partner is at risk. In these cases, we get the male on the best treatment available for his disease. We can then wash the sperm multiple times with a special protocol developed in Europe to remove the virus. A small sample of the sperm is then tested in the lab to make sure there is no detectable virus, and an insemination is done with the rest of the sample. About 4,000 inseminations using this method for HIV have been reported in the literature, and there are no reported infections of the female from it. We have had similar success and have several babies born now to couples who used this method to conceive.

Medications have made it possible to live a long and productive life with HIV. It is no longer the death sentence that it used to be. Couples living with this disease are now looking to the future. They want a family, just like other couples. These procedures allow them to have that family without putting their partners and children at undo risk.


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