A one of a kind HIV positive sperm bank has been launched ahead of World Aids Day, falling on December 1, in order to obviate the stigma attached to those afflicted by the disease. The sperm bank currently has 3 donors, all HIV positive, but the amount of virus in their blood is too low to be able to be detected.
Also, the amount of virus in the blood is negligible enough that it cannot be transmitted to others by the regular routes – sex without condom/mother to child during pregnancy, although this doesn’t mean that they have been completely cured.
One of the donors, Damien Rule-Neal has been undergoing treatment for HIV for the past 18 years and has reached a stage where the virus cannot be detected now, however he still rues the lack of public understanding in his country about what this stage meant for the disease and its transmission and the constant stigma that he had to endure over the years, both personally and professionally.
He has shared stories about how his friends, diagnosed with HIV, shedding their inhibitions, have gone on to lead normal lives and have had children and has made his life’s ambition to help others who have gone through similar tribulations in their lives.
The sperm bank has made it very clear, in an effort not to mislead the general public, that their samples contain HIV however it cannot be transmitted to others on account of the treatment received by the donors.
This initiative is being spearheaded by the New Zealand Aids Foundation, Positive Women Inc and Body Positive, and they are sanguine that this can alleviate the stigma surrounding HIV and to improve public understanding.
One of the doctors who has had extensive experience as a consequence of handling HIV patients for 30 years, Dr Mark Thomas, has noted that though there have been great strides made in the public understanding of HIV in recent years, there are still many who suffer stigma, due to which the treatment can be impacted and consequently, the risk of transmission increased in them.
The initiative is aimed not only at enhancing public understanding of it, but also to ensure those diagnosed with it are aware that fertility services are available to them as well, helping them to realize their lives ambitions. It doesn’t double up as a fertility clinic itself, but it does have connections with them where it can put the interested parties in touch with those clinics.