IVF treatment is set to become available to hundreds of would-be HIV-positive and same-sex parents.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a lifeline for couples struggling to conceive. For years, however, HIV-positive couples have been precluded from the procedure. Furthermore, costly screening tests have also made it difficult for same-sex couples to avail of IVF.
However, that seems set to change with the announcement of changes to the law in the UK that will make IVF readily available to HIV-positive and same-sex couples.
IVF – an alternative fertilisation option
IVF is an alternative fertilisation option for people with fertility problems who struggle to conceive.
During the process, an egg is removed from a woman’s ovaries. The egg is then fertilised in a laboratory, at which point it is replaced in the womb to grow and develop.
Under NHS guidelines, IVF is available to women under 43 who have been trying to conceive for at least two years, or who have had 12 cycles of artificial insemination.
IVF can use the egg and sperm of the couple trying for a baby, or those of donors.
IVF for HIV-positive couples – changes to the law
Current UK law bans HIV-positive people from donating eggs or sperm.
But changes announced yesterday (25 October) by the Department of Health and Social Care mean the treatment will become available to people with undetectable HIV – where the viral load is too low for transmission.
On top of gaining access to IVF treatment themselves, the law change will also allow HIV-positive people to donate eggs and sperm to friends and relatives.
Chief executive of the National AIDS Trust, Deborah Gold, welcomed the law changes and called on the government to implement the new legislation quickly.
“The government’s decision follows the science, and we now urge them to act swiftly on their commitment and table secondary legislation to remove these regulations from the statute book as soon as possible,” Gold said.
“This change will transform the lives of some people living with HIV who have until this point been barred from the opportunity to become a parent through fertility treatments”.
Head of policy at Terrence Higgins Trust, Debbie Laycock, praised the work of the National AIDS Trust and echoed Gold’s call for expedience: “We need to see the change implemented and as quickly as possible so its benefits can begin to be felt”.
IVF for same-sex couples – access to become less prohibitive
The changes to the law will also greatly benefit female same-sex couples.
Currently, female same-sex couples undergo screening for diseases like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and rubella. These tests – which are not required of heterosexual couples – cost upwards of £1,000, making IVF prohibitively expensive for same-sex couples.
Dr Catherine Hill, head of policy and public affairs at Fertility Network UK, welcomed the removal of “an inequality between how women in same-sex couples are treated […] and how heterosexual couples are treated” in regard to IVF.
Dr Hill continued, “This legislative change, when enacted, will also be a step forward in removing the massive financial barriers facing female same-sex couples hoping to become parents via fertility services”.