‘Cruel’ ban on fertility treatment for people with HIV must end, charity says

Someone taking a fingerprick test.

The National AIDS Trust (NAT) has called for an end on the government’s “cruel” ban on fertility treatment for people living with HIV.

The HIV rights charity called for the Department of Health and Social Care to end the ban in a statement on Sunday (7 August), stating scientific evidence which shows there is little risk of passing on HIV when using fertility care.

Widespread HIV treatment means that approximately 97 per cent of people in the UK who are HIV-positive cannot transmit the virus to others.

But current laws mean that those living with HIV are not allowed to use eggs or sperm outside of treatments involving their partner – because if they do, they’re then legally seen as a donor, and UK law imposes an outright ban on anyone who is HIV positive cannot participate in that process.

NAT says the UK government: “Discriminates against LGBTQ+ people living with HIV who want to start a family.

“For example, the law treats a woman living with HIV who wishes to implant her egg in her female partner as a donor rather than a partner and currently prohibits her from doing so,” the charity continued.

“These restrictions also apply to heterosexual couples with different HIV statuses in cases where they require fertility treatment and whenever a donor is involved.”

HIV is currently protected against discrimination under the Equality Act and the Disability Discrimination Act, meaning employers and other service providers are unable to treat those who are HIV positive differently from the rest of the public.

‘People on treatment cannot pass the virus on’

Despite the protections put in place, NAT has noted the disparity between that and these “discriminatory” laws, while noting that it also discriminates against same-sex couples especially because of their narrowed decisions when it comes to fertility treatments.

Royal Free Hospital HIV medicine consultant Dr Tristan Barber said in a statement: “Starting a family through fertility treatment is completely safe for people living with HIV.

“HIV medication is now so effective that people on treatment cannot pass the virus on, and have babies born without HIV.”

Even for those who have detectable levels of HIV, treatments such as sperm washing can distinctively separate safely transmittable sperm.

‘I was in shock’

An HIV-positive gay man in a couple looking into surrogacy named Andrew told NAT: “When I found out from a surrogacy agency that I can’t have a child using my own sperm I couldn’t believe it, I was in shock.

“It’s upsetting that stigma still exists today in old laws. The only way to break down stigma is to challenge it.

“Modern medicine has transformed HIV, so it’s incredibly frustrating we have to get the law changed to be able to make normal life choices like this.”

Medical breakthroughs and legislation changes have also significantly improved the lives of HIV-positive individuals in need of organ transplants.

The first ever heart transplant between two patients living with HIV took place in early August after certain prohibitive laws criminalising medical facilities using organs of HIV-positive people were scrapped in 2013.