World first HIV-positive sperm bank launches in New Zealand

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New Zealand charities have launched the world’s first “HIV positive sperm bank” in an bid to reduce the stigma experienced by those living with the virus.

Sperm Positive has started with three male donors from across New Zealand who are living with HIV but have an undetectable viral load.

This does not cure the virus but means it can’t be passed on, even through condomless sex or childbirth.

Antiretroviral therapy – daily medication stopping HIV from replicating in the body – lowers the amount of the virus in the blood to undetectable levels.

Donor Damien Rule-Neal was diagnosed with HIV in 1999 but is now undetectable after starting treatment almost 20 years ago.

He said there is still a lack of awareness about what “undetectable” means for a person with HIV.

He reported experiencing HIV stigma in both his personal life and at work in the health sector.

After he revealed his HIV status to his employer, he was bullied and eventually decided to leave his job, he said.

“We’ve got the science behind it to say that medication makes you untransmittable,” he told Radio New Zealand.
“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.”

Three charities launched Sperm Positive to educate and raise awareness ahead of World Aids Day 2019, on Sunday, December 1.

It will not operate as a fertility clinic but, if both parties agree to a match, they can get in touch with local fertility clinics.

HIV stigma rife among young people

This week, a new survey by Prevention Access Campaign and US pharmaceutical company found HIV stigma was rife among millenials.

The poll of HIV-negative people aged 23-36 found only 31 per cent knew that “undetectable” means a person living with HIV cannot transmit the virus.

Fifty per cent of respondents believed it is possible for someone who is undetectable to transmit the virus.

A shocking 28 per cent of respondents also said they have avoided hugging, talking to or being friends with someone with HIV.

Dr Mark Thomas, an infectious diseases doctor and Auckland University associate professor, said he had seen changes in public opinion over the last 30 years.

“I’m glad to say that in this time there have been great changes in public understanding of HIV,” he told The Guardian.

“But many people living with HIV still suffer from stigma.

“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.”

World AIDS Day is held on December 1 each year. It’s a day for people to show their support for people living with HIV and to remember and honour those who we have lost.

The theme of World AIDS Day 2019 is “Every Journey Counts”.

In Queensland, there’s events planned all over the state to mark World AIDS Day.

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