Starting a family

Everyone has the right to make their own choices about fertility and childbirth; your HIV status does not change that. HIV is no longer considered the terminal illness that it was in the 1980’s. Years ago, someone living with HIV didn’t have much choice when it came to family planning; now advances in treatment mean that many people living with HIV are parents.

Advice for HIV positive women:

•Talk to your doctor:If you are thinking about getting pregnant, speak to your doctor about it. They can help you plan your pregnancy and ensure the best care for your baby. It is not recommended to become pregnant through unprotected sex, as HIV can be transmitted to your partner but there are ways around this.
•Make sure you are healthy: If you have a sexually transmitted infection you will need to wait till it has been treated as this could cause serious complications to your baby.
• You can get pregnant: If you are in a heterosexual relationship and your partner does not have HIV, it may be possible to become pregnant through self-administered insemination of your partner’s semen. You could also use donor semen in the case of same sex relationships or if your partner has fertility problems. Visit AIDSmap for more information on conception.
•HIV treatment: Once pregnant you may be advised to start HIV medication which is very effective in reducing the risk of mother-to-child transmission. If you are on HIV medication already there are some old types that aren’t safe during pregnancy, but your doctor will be able to tell you if you need to change treatment.
•The delivery and aftercare: You may want to consider a caesarean for the delivery to reduce the risk of transmission occurring through birth. Your baby may be given liquid anti-HIV medication when they are born and tested for HIV. This does not mean they have HIV however, it is just a precaution. You will probably be advised not to breastfeed as breast milk contains HIV and could pass HIV on to the baby and it is advised you give your baby instant formula milk instead.

Advice for HIV positive men

If you are living with HIV and your partner is not, speak to your doctor about protection along with conception. The risk of a man living with HIV passing on HIV during conception can be overcome with the right support planning and medical care.

Sperm-washing is a safe way for an HIV positive man to have a child with a partner who is negative. It can also be used if both partners are HIV positive to prevent re-infection with a different strain of the virus. This procedure is based on the fact that the virus is present in the seminal fluid rather than the sperm itself. By “washing” and separating the sperm from the fluid and then inserting that sperm directly into the partner’s womb this greatly reduces the risk of HIV transmission occurring.

More information about planning a family can be found by here.

Advice for clinicians:

For more information for clinicians and professionals, click here.