Prospective surrogate mothers may find the possibility of HIV-positive sperm donation frightening. And perhaps rightfully so—the virus and its debilitating effects are estimated to affect 1.1 million people in the United States. The statistic for documented transmission of HIV to surrogate mothers or their offspring via in vitro fertilization is much more encouraging: zero.
At one prominent clinic, the Bedford Research Foundation Clinical Laboratory, cutting-edge HIV-testing protocols and a medical procedure called “sperm washing” has made the risk of transmission from an HIV-positive parent virtually nonexistent. As of September 2011, no one using tested semen as a surrogate through in vitro fertilization has been infected.
Sperm washing gives surrogate mothers a profound level of safety and security in HIV-positive sperm donation. In an HIV-positive male, the virus lives in the seminal transport fluid—not the semen cells. By placing sperm samples in a centrifuge tube and spinning at high velocity, doctors can separate the infected seminal fluid from the semen cells. Then, only those semen cells that test negative for the virus are inserted into the surrogate egg.
Nothing in life is absolute, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a safer avenue for helping HIV-positive parents realize their dream of creating a family.