Andrew on the fight for fertility equality for people living with HIV
Andrew is in his 30s and has been living with HIV for 13 years. He wants to have a child with his husband by donating his sperm to a surrogate, but under current law is unable to do so. This LGBT History Month, Andrew tells us why the law needs to change to reflect the advances in medicine, so that those living with HIV can start a family.
I rarely had to really think about my HIV status until my husband and I started talking about starting a family. It never usually gets in the way of my life.
As a gay man, you have to plan how you’re going to have kids, there isn’t a quick and simple solution. We read a lot of information online and decided that surrogacy is the best option for us. I want to go first, but my partner and I would both like to donate sperm, so that we can have one biological child each to create our family.
I booked an appointment with a surrogacy clinic, and that’s where I found out that it wouldn’t be possible for me to have my own biological child through surrogacy as I am living with HIV. My first thought was disbelief- I just thought they’d got it wrong. As I started to realise they were right, I felt a sense of sadness, and for it to be delivered quite plainly like that was devastating.
The whole thing just feels so outdated. I’m on treatment that means the HIV in my body is undetectable and I can’t pass it on, so this law doesn’t even need to exist. I was being told I can’t have my own biological child when there’s no reason for it. It feels like the government is practically forcing infertility on LGBT+ people living with HIV.
I have fantastic doctors but I’ve never found out along the way that I can’t donate sperm, nobody has ever said that to me. I was quite upset with my doctors for not telling me.
Alongside the sadness were feelings of anger and injustice, so I decided I wanted to fix it. I quickly realised that nobody was openly talking about this, so decided to do something about it and contacted National AIDS Trust to help.
When I tell people about this, they ask me “why don’t you use your partners sperm?” - how would you feel if your partner used the sperm or eggs of another person to have your baby instead of using yours? These are personal decisions that should be between my partner and I, it shouldn’t be decided by a group of people completely removed from the situation who have no idea what that feels like. I want it to be my choice and not someone else's.
When I found out that most straight couples living with HIV can use fertility treatments to have children, I couldn’t believe it. All that says to me is that clearly this needs to be challenged and is a fundamental bias against LGBT people. The more you look into these kinds of things the more you realise there are all these hidden injustices in the law that still need to be challenged. We’ve come a long way but being blocked from having a child makes me feel like I’ve gone back in time.
It’s upsetting that this stigma still exists today in old laws, and the only way to break down stigma is to challenge it. Modern medicine has changed HIV so I should be allowed to start a family just like everyone else can. It’s frustrating we have to do this campaign at all to be able to make normal life choices like this. I don’t feel like I’m doing it for me, I just think it’s the right thing to do because this law is so clearly wrong.
It’s a known fact among the HIV community that if you’re on effective HIV treatment you can’t pass it on through sex. It’s time this is applied to all other aspects of our life too, like starting a family.
As well as getting this uncompassionate law overturned, another great outcome of raising awareness about this issue would be for people living with HIV to see having a child as an option for them, and for doctors to speak with their patients about it more too so they know what their options are.
HIV hasn’t closed any doors in my life, and there’s no need for it to stop me, and others, from having kids either. I’m extremely grateful to National AIDS Trust for taking this on, because we have a real chance at fixing this. Together we can change this out-of-date law, challenge stigma and stand up for the science!
Sign our petition to help us to bring equality to people living with HIV who would like to start a family and keep fighting discrimination and stigma in all aspects of life.