New Zealand launches world's first HIV-positive sperm bank

Hands holding AIDS awareness ribbon.
Hands holding AIDS awareness ribbon. Photo credit: Getty

New Zealand is the first country in the world to open an HIV-positive sperm bank.

Launching on Wednesday ahead of World AIDS day on Sunday, organisers say they hope the sperm bank will reduce stigma and raise awareness that those living with HIV can lead a normal life and have children without passing on their condition.

The project was initiated by the New Zealand AIDS foundation, Positive Women Inc. and the HIV support charity Body Positive. It will launch with three New Zealand donors living with the condition.

Executive director of Body Positive Mark Fisher spoke to Sean Plunket on Magic Talk about the service.

"There is a demand for people living with HIV to be able to have children," he said.

Fisher made it clear although HIV-positive people can have children naturally if they are on treatment, continual stigma can make the decision difficult.

"The reality today is that if you're on your treatment, you won't pass HIV to your sexual partners and you can have kids," Fisher reiterated.

"But a lot of people living with HIV don't know they can have children... a lot of knowledge [about the condition] still comes from the stigma of the 80s. When people are diagnosed, they think they can't have a partner, they can't have sex and they're infectious.

New Zealand launches world's first HIV-positive sperm bank
Photo credit: Sperm Positive / Supplied

"A lot of stigma persists... there's a lot of ignorance still."

Fisher said the conversation sparked by the HIV-positive sperm bank will help to increase awareness and education.

"We wanted a sperm bank so we can have these conversations and educate people that you can do it through natural means... but if you need the support of a sperm bank, you can go through that journey and have kids."

He said it's imperative that people get tested regularly, so those diagnosed with HIV can maintain a good quality of life and prevent transferring the condition to others.

"Get regularly tested and if you're positive, you go on the treatment, you become uninfectious, you can lead a normal life and have kids," Fisher said. 

"If you get tested, it's not a death sentence - because you go on treatment."

Each donor living with HIV has a consistently undetectable viral load, meaning they cannot transmit the virus to others through unprotected sex or childbirth.

New Zealand had its highest number of HIV infections in 2016. The number has gradually decreased over the last two years.

If people are interested in exploring the option of receiving a sperm donation and a donor agrees with the match, Sperm Positive will put them in touch with local fertility clinics.