27 babies in Japan have been born virus-free after the virus was removed from the the sperm of HIV-positive fathers.
The babies and their mothers were not infected with the virus, but the risk of infection has caused the government and medical circles to express concern. Guidelines concerning safety standards for such treatments will need to be established because the number of children born using such methods had risen faster than expected since the first baby conceived using the practice was born in 2000.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry's research team, Niigata University, Kyorin University and Keio University conducted the treatments after receiving permission from their ethics committees. 77 couples approached the universities, and they treated 43 of them. Of those, 22 women became pregnant and 19 gave birth, with eight pairs of twins born. There were four foreign couples in the group.
The virus was removed from the father's semen using the Percoll method, in which semen is put in a special medical liquid to select just the active sperm, and other medical techniques. In-vitro fertilization or micro-insemination - methods in which less sperm are needed - was then used to induce pregnancy. No HIV was found in the mothers or the babies after each childbirth, meaning none of them were infected. They successfully removed the virus to an undetectable level in 27 cases.
Three years ago a woman was found infected with HIV after undergoing artificial insemination at another university hospital after it failed to remove the virus. The woman did not become pregnant.The new guidlines should help prevent this re-occurring.
Many experts are durious saying removing the virus to less than a detectable level did not mean it was completely removed. In Italy, it was reported that 2,000 babies were born by the method of removing the virus from fathers' semen. This treatment is not available in the United States because of the possibility of infection. More than 1,000 people were infected with HIV last year in Japan.