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HIV-Positive Parenting and the SPAR Program

At Circle, we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to be a parent. We're proud to support and help HIV+ intended parents achieve their dream of parenthood through surrogacy safely and securely.

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.

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 innovating 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?

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 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.

 How does Circle find surrogates for the program?

How does Circle find surrogates for the 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. 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.

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Common questions about the SPAR program.

As you consider the SPAR program, you may have questions along the way. Here are some common questions from parents and surrogates about SPAR.

Should I be nervous that Intended Parents with HIV may not be as healthy as other Intended Parents, or won't be around as long to raise their baby?

To be in the SPAR program with Dr. Kiessling, intended parents must be treating their HIV with medication. Many people respond well to treatment. Oftentimes, the virus becomes undetectable. Great strides have been made in the treatment of HIV, and for many HIV+ people, it is now a manageable chronic illness.

Since Bedford Labs is in Massachusetts, is that where I have to go for my transfer?

No. While the samples are collected and handled at the Bedford Labs in Massachusetts, they are then shipped to the Intended Parents’ clinic.

What should I do if I'm interested in the SPAR program and helping HIV+ men build a family?

Once you’ve applied and have been accepted into our surrogate program, you will have the opportunity to explore the SPAR program. During the matching process, you can discuss this program more with a member of our matching team. Surrogates who are involved in the program are asked to inform their primary support person, as a surrogate’s primary support person must also be supportive of the decision. If at any point a surrogate or her support person has medical questions, we can refer them to a medical professional to discuss further. After a surrogate is matched with her intended parents, she will be connected to Dr. Kiessling for a consultation as well.

Are there additional costs for SPAR?
Circle does not charge any additional fees for joining SPAR. However, there are fees associated with the semen testing and sperm washing procedures.
How do I get started?
The surrogacy process, whether you participate in SPAR or not, begins with an initial consultation with our team—either by Skype or in person. We’ll cover our program offerings and overview, legal issues, financial aspects, insurance, and provide more information about SPAR. If you're ready to start as a surrogate, click here. If you're a parent, click here.