The nation’s top public health agency has agreed that HIV-infected men can safely father children without transmitting the virus if they undergo ‘sperm-washing’.
For many years, the CDC said it was too risky for infected men to have unprotected sex with uninfected women since that is one way the virus spreads.
On Thursday, the agency published a new set of guidelines saying the risk of infecting of the baby is negligible if the man undergoes a process called ‘sperm-washing’, which can eliminate the virus from seminal fluid.
Officials say the man needs to also be taking virus-suppressing medication, and the woman should be taking PrEP – a drug that protects against infection – if they plan to conceive.
On Thursday, the CDC changed its guidance for HIV-infected men who want to father children, saying there’s now enough evidence that a lab technique that removes the virus is safe
Critics claim the agency has been slow to OK the technique called ‘sperm washing’, which has been around for decades and endorsed by other medical organizations.
It involves separating sperm from infected cells in seminal fluid and using the sperm for artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization.
The procedure is an extra step to ensure the virus won’t be transmitted.
In many cases, HIV-infected men who take HIV medication have suppressed their virus to such an extent that it is undetectable and is not found in sperm.
However, some medical professionals believe our tests are not advanced enough to say with 100 percent certainty that the virus is completely removed.
Consequently, some men may want to undergo sperm-washing to make sure the virus is not passed on.
And in some cases, HIV-infected men suffer fertility issues. As a result, sperm-washing and intrauterine insemination can be a vehicle to sidestep those issues.
Releasing the guidelines on Thursday, CDC officials said they wanted substantial evidence that women weren’t becoming infected from washed sperm.
After reviewing nearly 4,000 cases worldwide, it’s become clear women are not, said the CDC’s Dr. Denise Jamieson.
The technique can cost $10,000 or more, and the price has been more of a deterrent than the CDC’s slowness to endorse it, said Dr. William R. Short of the University of Pennsylvania, who treats such couples.
But the CDC’s update probably will help more couples feel comfortable about trying to conceive, he said.