Gays cleared to donate sperm
10 March 2006
By NIKKI MACDONALD
Gay men should be able to donate sperm by the end of the month, after a fertility clinic policy U-turn.
The decision is a victory for the Wellington man incensed when he and his partner heard about the national donor shortage and offered to help, but were told they could not donate sperm because they were gay.
Human rights experts said the policy was blatant and irrational discrimination.
Fertility Associates had said its clinics were happy to accept gay men as personal donors selected by the recipient couple or woman. However, they could not take gay donors for the general sperm bank.
Despite routine HIV testing of every sperm donation, gay men were ruled out as they were considered to be at a higher risk of carrying the virus, the organisation said.
However, Fertility Associates spokesman Richard Fisher said yesterday that the organisation had been acting on verbal advice from the previous committee chairman and had not realised that new guidelines, issued last year, enabled clinics to set their own risk parameters.
Fertility Associates had been approached by the Human Rights Commission about its policy and was now working through a process to screen potential donors in a non-discriminatory way, subjecting everyone to the same questions and testing regime, Dr Fisher said.
AdvertisementAdvertisementUnder the proposed protocol, gay men will no longer be vetted out in initial questioning. All donor sperm would be tested for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and quarantined for six months. The donor would then be tested again and, if negative, would be added to the donor pool, Dr Fisher said.
The new protocols were expected to be in place by the end of this month, once advice from infectious disease experts had been considered.
Dr Fisher did not know to what extent the move would alleviate the sperm donor shortage. There are 120 women or couples on the sperm donation waiting list at present.
The Wellington man who raised the issue welcomed the clinic's decision and vowed he and his partner would again offer to donate.
"It is fantastic. They have been amazingly cooperative. But I can't see that they would have turned around so quickly without the media coverage."