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Sperm Washed Free of HIV

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In the U.S., Semprini's group has worked with Deborah Jean Anderson's team at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, which first raised the question of whether sperm could carry HIV. Anderson colleague Alison Jane Quayle, PhD, tells WebMD that she advocates the procedure for HIV-discordant couples -- in which the man has HIV but the woman doesn't -- who very much want to have children.

"I would say go ahead," Quayle says. "I have talked to discordant couples who are desperate to have children, and you can't say 'no' to everything. You have to give them something that is practical. If I know they are going to go out and have unsafe sex, it would be a very good idea to offer them sperm washing."

The assisted-pregnancy procedure is now available to some in England, France, and Spain. It soon will be available in Switzerland -- but not in the U.S. because of concerns that HIV could theoretically escape attempts to flush it away.

"In science, you can never say 'never' -- sometimes a bit of HIV might stick to the sperm, but we have never seen it," Quayle says. "In culture work, molecular work, and microscopy, we have not been able to find an association between HIV and sperm."

 

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