In a significant step forward for LGBTQ+ rights and reproductive freedom, the UK government has announced its commitment to repeal a longstanding law that has prevented individuals living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) from starting a family through surrogacy. This progressive legislation change signifies a crucial move towards greater inclusivity and equity in family planning, acknowledging the evolving science around HIV transmission and treatment. Maria Caulfield MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Mental Health and Women’s Health Strategy unveiled this ground-breaking reform during a discussion on IVF provision in Parliament on October 24, 2023.
The New Legislation.
The forthcoming legislation will permit individuals living with HIV who maintain an undetectable viral load, meaning they cannot transmit HIV, to contribute eggs or sperm for surrogacy. This change represents a major shift away from the previous law that had stigmatised and marginalised HIV-positive individuals, preventing them from pursuing parenthood through surrogacy.
The National AIDS Trust has been at the forefront of campaigning for these legislative changes, garnering substantial support over the past 18 months. Their efforts included a petition with hundreds of signatures, letter-writing campaigns to MPs, and participation in London Pride marches whilst highlighting this issue. These collective actions played a pivotal role in ensuring the rights of HIV-positive individuals are recognised and upheld.
Under the proposed changes in Parliament, it will no longer be illegal for couples, whether they are same-sex or mixed-sex, to employ a surrogate if one or both partners are living with HIV. Additionally, the law will be amended to allow individuals to receive gamete donations from friends or family members living with HIV.
Maria Caulfield’s Statement
Maria Caulfield expressed her support for these changes during her announcement in Parliament, stating, “I am pleased to announce that, following the advice of the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues, and Organs, the Government will be introducing secondary legislation to allow the donation of gametes by people with HIV who have an undetectable viral load; we will be introducing that as soon as we can. We will also be addressing the current discriminatory definitions of partner donation, which result in additional screening costs for female same-sex couples undergoing reciprocal IVF; again, amendments through statutory instruments will be introduced as soon as possible.”
The UK government’s commitment to removing a discriminatory law that has hindered HIV-positive individuals from starting a family through surrogacy represents a monumental leap forward in the journey towards greater inclusivity, equality, and reproductive freedom.
The forthcoming legislation acknowledges the advancements in HIV treatment and transmission prevention, ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their HIV status, have the opportunity to realise their dreams of parenthood. This portentous decision brings hope to countless aspiring parents and is a testament to the power of advocacy and activism in shaping a more equitable and accepting society.
HIV-positive couples can certainly adopt a child, but there are important considerations and precautions that need to be taken to ensure the health and well-being of the child and the adopting parents. HIV is a serious medical condition that can be managed effectively with modern medical treatments. Here are some key points to consider:
Medical Management: HIV-positive individuals can lead healthy lives with proper medical treatment, including anti-retroviral therapy (ART) before adopting a child, it is essential that both members of the couple are receiving appropriate medical care, have undetectable viral loads and are following their treatment plans as prescribed by healthcare professionals. This minimises the risk of transmission.
Education and Disclosure: It is crucial for the adopting couple to be open and honest with the adoption agency, social workers, and the child’s birth parents (if applicable) about their HIV status. They should provide detailed information about the health of the adopting couple and their ability to manage their condition. This is essential to the adoption process.
Legal Considerations: Laws and regulations regarding adoption by HIV-positive individuals or couples vary from country to country and in some cases, region to region. It’s important to be aware of the legal requirements and restrictions that may apply in your area.
Pediatric HIV Risk: While the risk of transmission from an HIV-positive parent to their child is extremely low if the parent’s viral load is undetectable, there may be a small risk during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. The use of ART and medical guidance can significantly reduce this risk.
Stigma and Discrimination: Unfortunately, there can still be stigma and discrimination associated with HIV. Adoptive parents may need to address misconceptions and prejudices they encounter during the adoption process and afterwards. It’s important to be prepared for these challenges.
Support Systems: It is important for HIV-positive couples considering adoption to have a strong support system in place, including healthcare providers, counsellors, and social workers who can provide guidance and support throughout the adoption process and beyond.
In many countries, adoption agencies and social workers are willing to work with HIV-positive individuals and couples who are otherwise qualified to be adoptive parents. The key is demonstrating that you can provide a loving and stable home for a child while effectively managing your HIV.
Ultimately, the decision to adopt a child as an HIV-positive couple should be made carefully, with full awareness of the medical and emotional responsibilities involved, as well as the legal and societal considerations. It’s important to seek professional advice and guidance throughout the process to ensure the best possible outcome for all involved.
Cynthia Cortés Castillo, Digital Marketing Executive