World’s first HIV-positive sperm bank opens in New Zealand

New Zealand opened the world’s first-ever sperm bank for HIV-positive donors Tuesday as part of an awareness campaign for World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.

The Sperm Positive initiative aims to give HIV-sufferers the chance to create life — as well as dispel the stigma surrounding the disease, the Guardian reported.

Co-founded by the New Zealand Aids Foundation, Positive Women Inc. and Body Positive, the project already has three male participants.

The donors’ viral loads are near-undetectable due to antiretroviral therapy — a daily drug cocktail that knocks their disease down to imperceptible levels, according to the BBC.

Although the donors aren’t HIV-free, the campaign makes it abundantly clear that they can’t transmit the disease through childbirth or even unprotected sex.

Case in point: HIV-positive donor Damien Rule-Neal, who is married with two children and three grandchildren. “We’ve got the science behind it to say that medication makes you untransmittable,” Rule-Neal, who was diagnosed nearly 20 years ago, told the BBC.

“I’ve seen a lot of my female friends that have HIV go on to have children. It shows that science and medication have given us that ability back.”

Sperm Positive reps stressed that it will not be operating as a fertility clinic — but if a match is agreed upon, it will connect both parties with local clinics.

Still, experts report that Sperm Positive faces major challenges.

“I’m glad to say that in this time there have been great changes in public understanding of HIV, but many people living with HIV still suffer from stigma,” Dr. Mark Thomas, an infectious diseases doctor and associate professor at Auckland University, told the Guardian.

Thomas added that this “discrimination can stop people at risk from getting tested, and those living with HIV from accessing treatment and support.”

HIV.gov estimates there were 37.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS in 2018 — 1.7 million of whom were children.

New York City has been successful at combating its HIV epidemic as of late. Health department statistics show that the number of new cases hit a 17-year low in 2018 — a result city officials attributed to new medicines and treatments.

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