People with HIV forced to travel abroad for fertility treatments

People living with HIV are forced to travel abroad for fertility treatments, as no private fertility clinic here has a lab to process samples from people with the virus.

leading fertility expert said the problem was “aggravated” by Ireland’s failure to provide IVF on the public health service.

Under EU-assisted human reproduction regulations, separate laboratory storage is required for samples from people who are HIV positive.

In Ireland, where the vast majority of treatments are provided by private clinics, no such lab with dedicated storage for HIV positive patients exists.

Dr John Lambert, a consultant in infectious diseases and genitourinary medicine, said the requirement for separate storage of samples did not apply to people living with Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

Through a clinic in the Rotunda he takes care of people who want to go through IVF.

“So it’s kind of peculiar, because they’re all blood borne viruses when you think about it,” Dr Lambert said. “The situation is, if you’re HIV positive you have to leave the country.”

“I’ve actually sent two HIV positive patients to London for IVF, and they’ve successfully gone through IVF, but they had to pay out of pocket. The fee was probably about €10,000, it’s a lot of money. There is no opportunity, public or private, to go through IVF if you’re HIV positive in Ireland. We just don’t have those resources.”

Dr Lambert said travelling for IVF was a “big undertaking” as patients would have to go “back and forth to the UK many times and there’s a lot of expenses involved.

“It should be available in Ireland, it should be standard. It’s not fair to make it available for some individuals, and not for those who are HIV positive.
It’s unfair,” he said.

Professor Mary Wingfield, the clinical director of the Merrion Fertility Clinic, said the lack of fertility treatments in Ireland for people living with HIV “is a problem”.

“IVF clinics internationally generally have separate laboratories and freezing facilities for these patients because of the risk of contamination of other samples. No clinic in Ireland has this capability. Even in the UK there are only
a handful of centres which treat HIV positive people.

“We send any patients who attend here to Liverpool and have a good working relationship with that unit. Again, some of this is aggravated by the lack of commitment to fertility care in our public health system,” she said.

A spokeswoman for SIMS IVF said UK clinics providing fertility treatment to HIV positive patients “have full or partial government funding. There is no such government support in Ireland”.