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International News

United Kingdom: Sperm Services May Face Court Over Delivery of Samples

November 20, 2007

Britain's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has warned unlicensed companies delivering fresh sperm by courier that they face prosecution under the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act.

"They are misleading vulnerable patients, and they are offering a very, very dangerous service," said Laura Witjens, chair of the government-funded National Gamete Donation Trust.

One of the companies, First4Fertility, said it is simply an introductory service and thus is not covered by the act. "We do not provide and would not provide any services which were illegal or unlawful," said Nigel Woodforth, a company director.

HFEA, however, expressed doubts. "Certain Internet-based businesses claim to be merely an introductory service whereby recipients and donors are put in touch with one another and thereafter make their own arrangements," the authority said. "The HFEA is aware that some of these businesses, however, do not allow direct contact between recipient and donor. Under the act, this is an element of procurement and therefore required to be licensed."

First4Fertility tells donors they can make their first donation three days after being tested for STDs. But according to Dr. Allan Pacey at Sheffield University, secretary of the British Fertility Society, "You can pass through that screening with flying colors, but a week before you could have had unprotected sex with an HIV-infected person. It's probably one step up from having a one-night stand."

Conventional clinics, Pacey said, test to make sure donors are uninfected, freeze the sperm for six months, then test the donor again for HIV. Only then is the donation cleared for use.

The law was amended in July as a result of a European Union directive. "We knew that the implementation of the directive would have a dramatic effect on these businesses, they would no longer be able to provide fresh sperm," the Department of Health said.

Back to other news for November 2007

Adapted from:
The Guardian (London)
11.19.2007; James Randerson

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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