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Couples where the male partner is HIV positive while the female is not face a real challenge when they are considering parenthood. There is some good news though there is now a real possibility to avoid HIV transmission to the woman, and consequently her child, with Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Treatment (HAART). The United Kingdom's fertility watchdog has updated its guidelines to say that natural conception is now a relatively safe option. NICE, the National Institute for Clinical Health and Excellence, says that natural conception should be recommended in some cases where the male half of a couple is HIV+, with the female being healthy. Previously, a sperm washing procedure was the only way in which HIV positive men could hope to become fathers without passing HIV on, and even that method is not totally reliable. Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Treatment (HAART) strengthens the body's immune response to infection and greatly reduces the viral load present in the bloodstream.

This treatment, which can reduce virus levels to undetectable, also make pregnancy a lot safer for the babies of HIV infected women. In the last decade and a half, this same treatment reduced the mother to fetus transmission rate of HIV from 26 percent to one percent. According to a Swiss study from 2008, HAART also reduces the risk of a man passing HIV on to a woman by 98 percent, thereby making biological fatherhood a real possibility for HIV positive men. The Terrence Higgins Trust for HIV affected people welcomed the change in NICE's guidelines, saying that this will offer a lot of clarity to couples who are not sure what is myth and what is truth when we're talking about HIV and fertility issues. Couples who are affected by HIV and are interested in becoming parents the natural way should, of course, consult with their medical team in an awful lot of detail before making the decision to go ahead. Think you could be HIV+? Read about the early signs!

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