In couples with one partner who's HIV-positive, safe conception and birth can be a topic of concern. With advances in medical treatment for HIV, lifespan can be barely affected by the virus, leaving couples to raise children as successfully as HIV-negative parents. However, fetal, infant and partner health can be affected if the virus is passed during intercourse or gestation.

Researchers from Massachusetts and California came together in hopes of establishing a clear list of potential treatments/alternatives for couples with one HIV-positive partner to reduce further viral infection.

Couples, where the male is positive and female, is negative (M+F-) men can reduce the risk of infection with sperm-processing. Couples where the female is positive and the male is negative (M-F+) can use artificial insemination in place of traditional, natural conception. If neither of these situations is ideal or acceptable, couples can use a combination of ART (antiretroviral) medication for the affected partner and PREP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) for the uninfected partner. Other options include male circumcision and limited sex based on fertility and ovulation.

Conclusion: Couples with one HIV-positive partner can safely conceive and give birth to healthy offspring without passing HIV on to the non-infected partner or the fetus. Safety precautions are available for the couple and treatment for the infant to reduce the risk of HIV after birth.

Source: Matthews LT, Smit JA, Cu-Uvin S, Cohan D. Antiretrovirals and safer conception for HIV-serodiscordant couples. Curr Opin HIV AIDS. 2012 Oct 1.