HIV-Positive Intended Parent Information

A letter from Dr. Dan Bowers to surrogates and intended parents.

Thank you for your interest in the Growing Generations surrogacy program. Their goal is to ensure the health and safety of the surrogate and the intended parent’s child by utilizing the very latest advances in assisted reproduction techniques and preventative medications.

Before I outline the general medical aspects of using sperm from an HIV positive sperm contributor, I wanted to provide a brief introduction. My name is Dr. Dan Bowers, and I have been a physician with a specialty in HIV for over 30 years. I am also a father through assisted reproduction, so the issues of our program are both professionally and personally very dear to me.

The purpose of the information below is threefold:

  • To provide the latest safety data on the risk of HIV transmission from an HIV-positive man to an HIV-negative woman using assisted fertilization techniques.
  • To list the processes involved to provide this safety.
  • To highlight the steps that the intended parent and your IVF clinic will take to not only meet, but exceed, current safety standards. Additionally, relevant data on the risk of HIV transmission through unprotected intercourse when a partner has an undetectable viral load is reviewed.

What is the history of using sperm from an HIV-positive man in assisted reproduction?

The technique of washing the semen from an HIV-positive man for the purpose of artificially inseminating an HIV-negative woman began in 1992, at a time when we did not have fully suppressive HIV regimens or the ability to measure HIV in the blood. Since then, there have been many advances in sperm washing and assisted reproduction techniques beyond basic intrauterine insemination such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

In 1996, the ability to measure the amount of HIV in the blood – the viral load – was developed. At the same time, the first three-drug regimens became available, which could suppress HIV to undetectable levels. This enabled for the selection of sperm donors with the lowest risk of having HIV in their semen.

Has there ever been a transmission of HIV in assisted reproduction?

In 2016, a comprehensive international review of all published reports of double washed sperm used for assisted reproduction found no cases of HIV transmission in over 11,000 cycles of either intrauterine insemination or IVF/ICSI.

Additionally, studies of HIV transmission through unprotected intercourse in serodiscordant couples (one HIV positive and one HIV negative) when the positive partner has an undetectable viral found no cases of HIV transmission between the couple after over 77,000 acts of unprotected intercourse.

What steps are taken to ensure safety for the surrogate?

To ensure that the sperm donor is non-infectious, the following criteria must be met:

  • The viral load in the blood is undetectable
  • There are no active sexually transmitted infections

To meet these criteria the following steps will be required:

  1. The intended parent must undergo complete infectious disease screening, and it will be repeated if more than seven days have elapsed before semen donation.
  2. The intended parent must provide three semen samples that are double washed according to FDA protocol.
  3. Some physicians will add this additional step of prescribing the surrogate a medication to further reduce the chances of any viral transmission. This is called pre-exposure prophylaxis. Studies show that giving the antiretroviral medication Truvada (tenofovir plus emtricitabine) to an HIV-uninfected partner prior to exposure reduces the risk of transmission through unprotected intercourse with an HIV-positive partner by over 90%. Truvada is safe to use in the first trimester of pregnancy, and just one pill a day will be taken for fourteen days starting three days prior to the embryo transfer. It can be taken with or without food anytime during the day, does not have drug-to-drug interactions, and is very well tolerated.

HIV is now a long-term manageable disease with current medications able to completely control the virus for a full lifetime. National studies now calculate the life expectancy of those with and without HIV to be nearly identical.

I look forward to personally speaking with you to learn more about helping create a family for HIV-positive individuals and couples. Please be in touch with your Growing Generations admission specialist to schedule a phone appointment.

Dr. Dan Bowers

About Dr. Dan Bowers

Dr. Dan Bowers
Dr. Dan Bowers

Daniel H. Bowers, M.D. is a board-certified family physician and nationally recognized HIV doctor. Born in a small town in Iowa, Dr. Bowers got his undergraduate degree from Stanford University and his medical degree from the University of Iowa College of Medicine. After completing his family practice residency at the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1980, Dr. Bowers joined a small family practice clinic in the Como Park area of Saint Paul, where he delivered babies, set fractures, performed minor surgery, ran a nursing home and cared for families that were five generations deep. He also continued to teach in the Family Practice Department of the University of Minnesota Medical School. As an openly gay physician, Dr. Bowers was one of the first doctors to see gay men with swollen glands and recurrent infections at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. As one of the pioneers in this field, Dr. Bowers was an early spokesperson against AIDS discrimination and a vocal advocate for public education and awareness programs. In 1989, Dr. Bowers moved to Los Angeles to join Pacific Oaks Medical Group, the largest private practice in the country specializing in HIV, whose founders reported the original five cases of AIDS to the CDC in 1981. For the next 19 years, Dr. Bowers participated in the evolution of the treatment of HIV/AIDS – from the care of those struggling with AIDS and the arrival of triple-drug combination therapy to the present state-of-the-art treatment of HIV as a long-term manageable disease. As a senior partner at Pacific Oaks, Dr. Bowers became a thought leader in the field of HIV/AIDS and has lectured, consulted and written extensively on the subject. At the same time, he also maintained a large and diversified practice in general adult medicine, with special interests in travel medicine, male aging and sexually transmitted diseases.

In 2008, Dr. Bowers moved to New York City and is now practicing in Manhattan. On a personal basis, Dr. Bowers has served on numerous not-for-profit boards, both local and national, and has been a frequent community lecturer for a variety of AIDS service organizations. He is a professionally trained choral singer. He and his spouse have one son.