Couples with HIV to gain access to fertility treatment under new laws

Same-sex couples are set to benefit from law changes around how they access fertility treatment in the UK (PA)
Same-sex couples are set to benefit from law changes around how they access fertility treatment in the UK (PA)

Couples with HIV will no longer be barred from having babies through IVF under new laws.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said same-sex couples with undetectable HIV – where the viral load is too low for transmission – will be able to access fertility treatment.

It also said lesbian couples will no longer be required to pay for expensive screening ahead of IVF as it moved to change “outdated” legislation.

The move is expected to impact hundreds of people hoping to become parents in the UK.

Health minister Maria Caulfield said: “Millions of couples dream of the joy of parenthood and bringing life into the world.

“But for many, that joy turns to unimaginable pain as they experience the distress of fertility issues.”

She added that the changes will aim to work “for everyone” and “support as many people as possible to conceive”.

At the moment, female same-sex couples are screened for the likes of hepatitis B, hepatitis C or rubella, with tests costing up to £1,000.

They are not required for heterosexual couples.

As well as accessing fertility treatment, HIV-positive couples will also be able to donate sperm or eggs to friends or relatives.

Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National Aids Trust, said: “The Government’s decision follows the science and we now urge them to act swiftly on their commitment and table secondary legislation to remove these regulations from the statute book as soon as possible.

“This change will transform the lives of some people living with HIV who have until this point been barred from the opportunity to become a parent through fertility treatments.”

Dr Catherine Hill, Fertility Network UK’s head of policy and public affairs, welcomed the change in legislation, which she said “will remove an inequality between how women in same-sex couples are treated when donating an egg to their partner as part of reciprocal IVF, and how heterosexual couples undergoing fertility treatment are treated”.

“This legislative change, when enacted, will also be a step forward in removing the massive financial barriers facing female same-sex couples hoping to become parents via fertility services,” Dr Hill added.

The changes come after the launch of the Women’s Health Strategy, a 10-year blueprint aiming to support and educate people regarding reproductive health.

One of its aims was to address regional variations in accessing NHS-funded fertility services and ensuring female same-sex couples are given access in an “equitable way”.

However, Robbie de Santos, of LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, said “we’re no further forward with a clear timeline for all health bodies to implement these changes” and accused the Government of failing to take issues “seriously enough” and “implement the Women’s Health Strategy in full”.