What is Sperm Washing?Sperm washing is a technique that was first developed in Milan. The concept of sperm washing rests on the premise that HIV resides mainly in the seminal fluid of an HIV positive male. Sperm washing concentrates and separates the fertilizing sperm from the infectious seminal fluid. During ovulation, the woman is then artificially inseminated with the concentrated sperm. Without the infectious seminal fluid, the theory is that the risk of the woman being infected with HIV is greatly reduced, thereby reducing the risk of vertical transmission (transmission from mother to child) as well.
Does Sperm Washing Work?Experts disagree with regard to how well sperm washing protects the female. One 2005 study from Italy showed encouraging results. Of the 567 serodiscordant couples treated with sperm washing, 298 pregnancies resulted (26.2% with artificial insemination and 37.2% with conventional in vitro fertilization or with intracytoplasmic sperm injection) and 224 children were born. The study showed that semen washing in HIV-positive men in the study has not produced any horizontal (in woman) or vertical (to the child) HIV seroconversion. However, there is no 100% guarantee that the virus is eliminated in motile sperm.
Will Medical Insurance Cover the Procedure?Unfortunately, most often insurances do not pay for sperm washing. In addition, the procedure is a costly one; some put the cost at more than $10,000 US. However, the fertility specialist performing the procedure may have ways for you to finance and pay for the procedure. Exact costs and insurance coverage can vary so check with your insurance provider and your physician for more information.
Where Is The Procedure Done?Currently, there are relatively few places that perform this procedure. To find a facility that performs sperm washing, start by looking at major university-based health systems and fertility specialists at large medical institutions.
Oliva G, Pons JM; "Sperm washing in HIV-serodiscordant couples wishing to have children."; Health Technology Assessment International. Meeting (2nd : 2005 : Rome, Italy).
Ital J Public Health. 2005; 2: 300.
Oliva G, Pons JM; "Sperm washing in HIV-serodiscordant couples wishing to have children."; Health Technology Assessment International. Meeting (2nd : 2005 : Rome, Italy). Ital J Public Health. 2005; 2: 300.