HIV positive sperm bank launched in New Zealand

The world's first HIV positive sperm bank has been launched in New Zealand, with organisers hoping to reduce stigma around the virus.

Called Sperm Positive, it will begin with three male donors from across the country who are living with HIV but who have had treatment which has meant the amount of the virus in their blood is so low it cannot be detected by standard methods.

This does not mean the HIV has been cured, but it does mean that the treatment has worked to the extent that the virus can no longer be passed on. This includes infection from sex without a condom or childbirth.

Damien Rule-Neal is one of the donors. He was was diagnosed with HIV in 1999 and was confirmed undetectable after starting treatment around 18 years ago.

"I have many friends who are also living with HIV who've gone on to have children," he said, adding that there was still a lack of education among the public about what an undetectable status meant.

"Being able to help others on their journey is so rewarding, but I also want to show the world that life doesn't stop post-diagnosis and help to remove the stigma."

Created by the New Zealand Aids Foundation, Positive Women Inc and Body Positive, the project intends to educate people about HIV transmission.

The online sperm bank said it will be made explicit that donors have HIV but are on effective treatment that means they are unable to pass the virus on.

It said it will not operate as a fertility clinic but if a match is agreed by both parties, Sperm Positive will put the parties in touch with local fertility clinics.

Dr Mark Thomas, an infectious diseases doctor and Auckland University associate professor, said: "Stigma can lead to inconsistent taking of medicines, and result in much less effective treatment of HIV, and risk of transmitting HIV.

"Fear of stigma and discrimination can stop people at risk from getting tested, and those living with HIV from accessing treatment and support."

The online bank has been launched ahead of World Aids Day 2019 which falls on 1 December.