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Sperm washing helps couples – Breakthrough in focu

In many unfortunate instances we see couples who are HIV sero discordant but who would like to have a baby. If the husband is HIV –1 positive and the wife is negative and they are planning to have a child the problem arises because sexual intercourse carries a 1 in 500 risk of transmitting the virus to the female partner and through her to the fetus. Sperm washing is a risk-reduction option in which infected sperm are washed free of virus before insemination into the female partner at the time of ovulation. Absence of detectable HIV is verified before insemination using a polymerase chain reaction nucleic acid-based sequence amplification assay.

Pregnancy rate per insemination is 14%, based on a European experience of more than 2000 inseminations; to date, there have been no seroconversions in either mother or child. Washed sperm have also been used in other assisted conception treatments, such as in vitro fertilization. In the United States, the CDC has recommended against insemination of women with semen from men infected with HIV. Current data from programs in Europe would suggest sperm washing to be a safe risk-reduction option for heterosexual couples wishing to bear a child

Through this breakthrough procedure it is possible for couples to have a child without going through the traumatic possibility of contracting the dreaded virus. However the project is still being fine-tuned to make it fool proof. It is suggested that sperm washing should only be carried out in dedicated units using a multidisciplinary approach to ensure that couples receive adequate preconception counseling, detailed sexual health and fertility assessment, and careful monitoring of the woman's HIV status during treatment and pregnancy.

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