The world’s very first HIV positive sperm bank has opened in an attempt to reduce the ostracism experienced by persons living with the virus.
Sperm Positive has started with three male donors spanning over New Zealand who are living with HIV though possess an undetectable viral load, which means the amount of the virus in an individual’s blood is so low that it can’t be traced by standard methods.
While this doesn’t mean the virus has been cured, it does suggest that the treatment is working fine and so the HIV cannot be passed on – even through childbirth or sex without a condom. Damien Rule-Neal, a donor, was diagnosed with the virus in 1999 however was deemed undetectable after beginning treatment roughly 18 years ago.
He said there remains a lack of education among the New Zealand public regarding what an undetectable status entails, and that he had experienced stigmatization about living with HIV in both his personal life and work. “I have many friends who are also living with HIV who’ve gone on to have children,” he said. “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.”
The online sperm bank stated it will be made transparent to people seeking a donor that they have the incurable virus but are on efficient treatment and thereby can’t pass the virus on. “I’m glad to say that in this time there have been great changes in public understanding of HIV, but many people living with HIV still suffer from stigma,” said Dr. Mark Thomas, an infectious diseases doctor. “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.”
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