September 21, 2012
So, my daughter just had twins!! What a blessing it is to be alive to see the miracles of life that are happening with my children. My oldest son just had my first grandson last year. If you had bet the odds 25 years ago when I was diagnosed with AIDS, that I would be here to see these amazing events, you would probably be to the good! It's great to see my personal lineage continuing to propagate.
What happens, though, to those who are diagnosed with HIV before they have children? I was about 31 years old when I was diagnosed, and I already had one son. Getting pregnant with my youngest son was how I found out I was positive because that is when I got tested. My wife had two children when we met 27 years ago, so we have four children and six grandchildren now. Thank God I have had plenty of opportunities to have a wonderful experiences with them. Spiritually speaking, having hope to see this day, and having faith that it would happen, has had a very positive effect on my life. Hope and faith have a healing effect.
Having something to look forward to, like children, has had a very positive and healing effect on my life. I know many others who have been diagnosed with HIV who have said the same thing. Besides, if procreation were to stop in the lives of everyone hosting the virus, our population would be seriously affected. That is why it is so gratifying to know that there are ways for couples (or individuals) wanting to have children in spite of HIV.
Some methods are potentially riskier (and more costly) than others. There are options available to positive or serodiscordant (one partner has HIV, while the other doesn't) couples. In the past, fertility clinics were generally unwilling to help out HIV-positive or HIV-serodiscordant couples wanting to become pregnant. Today, several clinics across the United States are offering a full range of reproductive services to HIV-positive couples. While assisted reproduction technologies are changing all the time, there are a few "standard" approaches to know about.
Unprotected vaginal intercourse, assisted reproduction, oligospermia cup insemination (OGI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) are some of the methods now available to HIV-positive couples who want to get pregnant. There is a risk of HIV transmission if unprotected vaginal intercourse is the conception method of choice. But if the positive partner is on antiretroviral treatment and his or her viral load is undetectable, the risk of transmission decreases. Other ways to reduce the chance of transmission include pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a short course of HIV drugs given to the negative partner before intercourse to help prevent infection.
To learn more about assisted reproduction for HIV-positive couples, consider getting in touch with the Special Program for Assisted Reproduction (SPAR) at the Bedford Research Foundation in Bedford, Massachusetts. SPAR has a national network consisting of more than 25 fertility centers throughout the U.S.
Here's the thing ... all of us as humans have needs and desires, and having children is a very natural desire. Having sex is necessary for human survival. Unfortunately, it is also the way HIV is transmitted. Thank God for the hope that medication has provided so many of us who have lived long enough to enjoy grandchildren. I pray that young people today will have the opportunity to enjoy the miracle of children and grandchildren too. Faith and hope play a part in our healing, but an even greater spiritual force for healing is love. There is nothing like the love of a parent/child relationship.
Having HIV should not deprive anyone of having the experience of parenthood. The fear of dying before your child was grown used to be an overwhelming consideration. I'm glad I lived long enough to see my six grandchildren. I'm glad to see the day where having HIV does not mean that anyone can have the same wonderful experience too! After all, that's the way of the world.