Either you or your partner has tested positive for HIV. Now you want to become pregnant. Is it an impossible dream?

Many people with the HIV virus are living longer and living healthier, and the number of deaths from AIDS has decreased. With a more hopeful future, it is no wonder that people with HIV are wondering about the possibility of pregnancy.

The decision to pursue parenthood is a complicated and difficult one for many people with HIV. High-tech procedures minimize the danger of passing the virus on to a partner or fetus. But no matter which technique is used to achieve pregnancy, there is a chance the child can become infected.

There are other factors to consider, as well. Will the HIV-positive parent live long enough to raise the child? Will the child's quality of life be compromised by the parent's illness? Can the parents designate a guardian? Parents who have HIV must have the courage to face tough decisions about the future, including their own mortality.

People with HIV who wish to conceive a child can start by doing the following:

  • Discussing options with healthcare providers, including ones who have experience with HIV and pregnancy
  • Talking to other couples who have been in the same situation, including parents of HIV-positive children
  • Exploring guardianship with family and friends

Conception techniques, risks, and possibilities differ according to which partner has HIV.

Conception when a man is HIV-positive is tricky, since logic dictates that he must use a condom to protect his partner from becoming infected.

A relatively simple procedure called sperm washing may provide a low-risk conception option that involves artificial insemination with the man’s sperm. For years, this method has been used in sperm banks and infertility clinics to boost sperm potency. Scientists studying the technique have found that it lowers the level of HIV in the semen. The procedure is believed to be effective for reducing infection rates, but it does not completely eliminate the virus. Sperm washing for HIV-positive men is not widely available.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to investigate sperm washing. Currently, it does not endorse the practice because its effect cannot be predicted.

You can also consider artificial insemination using donor sperm from a sperm bank. Donor sperm is automatically tested for HIV and cannot be kept if it is positive.