20 Oct 2014 ART for HIV+ Intended Parents is Hot Topic at Professional Conferences
I am fortunate to participate in two great professional conferences, both of which bring together some of the best minds in assisted reproductive technology to share best practices and advance knowledge in the field. The first, just ended on Saturday, Oct. 18, was the American Bar Association Family Law Fall Continuing Legal Education meeting held in Stowe, Vermont. The second, “Surfing the Waves of Change in Reproductive Medicine,” the annual conference of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), held in Honolulu, began Oct. 18 and will end on Wednesday, Oct. 22. I am honored to have been invited to present at both conferences on the topic of helping intended parents living with HIV become parents and the attendant legal considerations.
The earliest work in this field began in the late 1990s with the Bedford Research Foundation’s Special Program of Assisted Reproduction, or SPAR, (http://sementesting.org/), which developed new methods for testing and preserving semen from men with HIV disease that nearly eliminated the risk of infection. In 1999, the first SPAR baby was born. In 2006, surrogacy and egg donation agency Growing Generations launched its HIV Assisted Reproductive Technologies program, or HART, (http://www.growinggenerations.com/surrogacy-program/intended-parents/hiv/). The American Fertility Association also has played a leading role in outreach to HIV+ intended parents and public education with its “Dreams to Reality” initiative (http://www.theafa.org/family-building/hiv/), which aims to “provide the most cutting-edge thinking about HIV and parenthood for both patients and the dedicated healthcare professionals who treat them.” According to the American Fertility Association, “The first reports of sperm washing and insemination (IUI) for couples with HIV were published in 1992, and since that time over 5000 treatment cycles worldwide have been published utilizing both IUI and IVF with no reports of infection to the recipient.” (http://www.theafa.org/family-building/hiv/).
Even though this work has been going on for some time, it is still considered cutting edge, even somewhat controversial, among fertility and ART professionals, as evidenced by its inclusion on the programs of both these leading conferences.
From a legal perspective, the two primary issues in assisted reproductive technology are (1) ensuring that the HIV status of the intended parent(s) is fully disclosed and the surrogate informed of any potential health risk and (2) ensuring that the privacy, and the legal requirement for privacy under HIPAA laws, is protected. For a more complete explanation of the legal issues involved in providing ART services to HIV+ intended parents, see the abstract of my presentation to the ABA CLE meeting, as well as a Power Point presentation I’ll use in my panel presentation on Wednesday, along with colleagues Kim Bergman, Ph.D. of Growing Generations; Bradford A. Kolb, M.D. of HRC Fertility – Pasadena; and Daniel Bowers, M.D., of Callen-Lorde Community Health Center.
Just as HIV has, thanks to advances in medical treatment, transitioned from a nearly always fatal disease to one that can be managed as a chronic condition, so, through advances in ART technology, has the opportunity for people living with HIV to become parents transitioned from impossible dream to viable reality—reason for celebration if there ever was one.