HIV / SPAR
HIV-Positive Parenting: Surrogacy and the SPAR Process
If you or your partner are living with HIV, parenthood through surrogacy may still be an option for you. The SPAR program was created to allow HIV+ men to build their families, and with Circle Surrogacy’s partnership and guidance, we can help you have a family successfully, while protecting surrogates and babies from becoming infected during fertility procedures.
Over the years I’ve learned to count on the Circle leadership team as mentors in the surrogacy and IVF space…And for me personally, my husband and I grew our family through surrogacy with Circle. And back then, there weren’t that many surrogacy agencies that would not only be open and excited to work with gay men, but to work with HIV positive gay men.
Brian Rosenberg, Founder
Gays With Kids®
What is SPAR?
The Special Program of Assisted Reproduction (SPAR) has allowed hundreds of HIV+ men to build their families through surrogacy. Circle Surrogacy is proud to have assisted many couples and individuals through this program since 2009. The goal of the program is to help individuals and couples achieve pregnancy without transmitting the HIV infection to the person carrying the baby or the baby itself.
SPAR is offered in conjunction with the Bedford Research Foundation Clinical Laboratory, which has helped bring over 300 babies into the world safely through the program with no transmission of the virus. Dr. Ann Kiessling's innovative program combines semen testing and sperm washing for safe fertility procedures.
Living with HIV doesn't prevent you from having a child safely through surrogacy. It's possible to have a baby as an HIV+ man through the SPAR program and surrogacy through Circle Surrogacy.
How Does the SPAR Process Work?
The medical process involves the semen from the Intended Parent being collected and screened. Any samples containing the HIV virus or any other significant pathogen are discarded. It’s important to note, on average only 15% of semen samples from an infected male on anti-retroviral therapy actually carry the HIV virus. The healthy sperm is “washed” for added protection; washed sperm is free of semen. The specimen is then frozen for transportation and preservation at a participating clinic where the IVF process takes place.
The 4 steps in the SPAR process are:
1. Consultations with intended parent(s) and surrogate.
Both intended parents and surrogates will have conversations with the surrogacy agency about what the SPAR program is, how the program works, and if there are risks to the surrogate in the SPAR program.
2. Collection of specimens, following FDA protocol.
The HIV infected parent will visit the Bedford Clinic and leave a semen sample.
3. Semen testing.
Semen will then be tested for presence of virus using the PCR HIV DNA assay. Depending on the outcome, it is then “washed” using a centrifuge to separate the sperm from the seminal fluid. Washed sperm are suspended in a new solution and cryopreserved.
4. Specimen is ready.
The specimen is then shipped to a participating IVF clinic (the intended parents' clinic) for fertilization and embryo transfer.
SPAR by the Numbers:
the year the SPAR program was established
the number of surrogates and babies that have contracted HIV through the SPAR program
number of babies born through SPAR program (as of June 2020)
Average percent of semen specimens that test PCR-positive from men on anti-retroviral therapy
How Does Circle Find Surrogates for the SPAR Program?
Every surrogate who applies to become a surrogate through Circle is given information about SPAR. Women who express interest in the program are given the opportunity to speak with an experienced surrogate who has participated in SPAR. All surrogates who join the program will have an individual consultation with Dr. Kiessling to learn about the program in greater detail.
Since the program was created there has not been a single instance of the virus being transmitted to anyone. And not only is the SPAR program safe for the carrier, but it’s also safe for the baby born through the process. Not one of the babies and carriers who have gone through this very program has contracted the virus.
Circle does not charge any additional fees for joining SPAR. However, there are fees associated with the semen testing and sperm washing procedures.
According to the Bedford Labs website, costs vary according to the clinic. The cup insemination procedure costs about $2,000 to $3,000 per attempt in Boston; IVF in Boston costs $8,000 to $10,000. You need to make arrangements with the clinic in advance. These costs are outside of your surrogacy costs with Circle Surrogacy.
Samples are collected and handled at the Bedford Labs in Massachusetts, then they are shipped to the Intended Parents’ clinic. So you will travel to MA for the sample collection, but can use a clinic close to where you live for the IVF process.
FAQs About the SPAR Program
You may have further questions about the SPAR program, and below you’ll find FAQs from other intended parents. You can read our full list of FAQs about the general surrogacy process from intended parents here.