If you are pursuing surrogacy and are living with HIV you may have heard the term “sperm washing”. Sperm washing is a standard infertility treatment and is used in artificial insemination and intrauterine insemination (IUI). It can improve the chances of conceiving in addition to reducing the risk of HIV transmission.
Ok, so what exactly is “sperm washing”?
Sperm washing is the process by which the sperm are separated from the semen. The seminal fluid and any non-motile sperm are removed from the semen to extract HIV carrying material in the semen. It is important to know that only seminal fluid, and not the sperm themselves may contain HIV.
How is sperm washed?
Sperm washing is a procedure that is carried out in a laboratory after a semen deposit is made. The sperm may be placed into a density gradient centrifuge or a “direct swim up” technique may be used. In normal semen samples, both processes are equally safe for the sperm.
Washed sperm are removed from the seminal fluid and placed into a body temperature medium along with a cryoprotectant to aid in the freezing and thawing process. Other chemicals are sometimes added to further separate the most active sperm and to create multiple samples.
Sperm washing helps to make the surrogacy process safe for Surrogate Mothers.
Sperm washing and IVF together reduce the risk of transmitting HIV from an HIV positive Intended Father and a Gestational Surrogate Mother. To date, through sperm washing and IVF, there has been no know transmission of HIV through surrogacy to mother or child. Hundreds of babies have been born to parents living with HIV using these techniques.