HART Program FAQs

Earlier this week Yahoo Parenting ran this story about a man living with an HIV positive diagnosis. This man is also a father through surrogacy. That breakthrough was made possible through the use of our HART program.

Here are a few frequently asked questions about the program.

What is HART?
HART stands for HIV Assisted Reproductive Technologies. Growing Generations has developed a cutting edge approach to assisted reproductive technologies combined with laboratory testing and preventative medications so HIV+ men may have the chance to become parents.

Won’t the Baby or the Gestational Carrier Get HIV?
No. Because it is now possible to take a single sperm and insert it directly into the egg for fertilization, only a single sperm is needed. As a result, the viral load is so small that chances of an infection are incredibly rare. In more than 4,000 reported cases of assisted reproduction using sperm from an HIV+ man, there has been no case of transmission to the gestational carrier or the baby.

What Male HIV Patients Are Eligible?
Aside from the general eligibility that Growing Generations looks for in intended parents, there are a few others specific to HIV+ men. Men are eligible to conceive children if they are on long-term HIV medications, have an undetectable viral load, haven’t changed their HIV medication in 6 months, and don’t have any other STDs. Male donors who need to be on HIV medications need to have taken them for a consistent 6 months before they can donate sperm. This means that the regimen can’t have changed and that they have several viral loads over a 6-month period, which are undetectable, including a viral load immediately before sperm donation.

How is this possible?
First, a “cocktail” of HIV drugs, usually protease inhibitors, are able to knock down the replication of the virus. Secondly, a breakthrough in the laboratory allowed the amount of virus in a patient to be calculated, called the viral load. The cocktail of drugs decreases the amount of virus in patients to unidentifiable levels of viral load; in other words, essentially zero. This research finding has turned HIV into a long-term manageable disease.

What About Other Types of Viral Infections?
For the most part, the same drugs, lab tests and assisted reproductive technologies that apply to HIV+ males can be used in men who are infected with other viral diseases like hepatitis so that they can safely have children. Whether you are straight, gay, using a surrogate, your partner—whatever the situation may be—we’re now able to move forward and provide a safe environment for you to have children where the risk to your partner or your surrogate is negligible, and the risk to your child is negligible as well.

Dr. Kim Bergman

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 22 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for the last two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for Intended Parents, Surrogates and Donors. She is the co-owner of Fertility Counseling Services and Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, the American Fertility Association, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 28 years and their two teenage daughters.