efe-epaPanama City

The technique of sperm washing allows men afflicted with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to have healthy children, a medical technologist at the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI) in Panama told EFE.

Specialist Josseline Flores said the treatment, which consists of cleansing the semen of infectious particles, combined with procedures of assisted reproductive technology such as intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization, allows serodiscordant couples (only one has the virus) to start a pregnancy without fear of contagion.

"We first do a spermogram of the sample and then a filtering wash to remove the cells and sediments floating in the seminal liquid," Flores said, adding that the cycle is repeated six times using a centrifuge to separate the sperm.

To make sure no traces of the virus remain, the expert said that the IVI sends a sample to the laboratory at the Gorgas Commemorative Institute, which specializes in the detection and handling of contagious diseases, to make a molecular analysis of the spermatozoa based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

For his part, the director of IVI Panama, Dr. Roberto Epifanio, told EFE that the sperm washing technique gives a new opportunity to couples in which the male is the HIV carrier, because methods already exist to avert the virus in infected women who want to have healthy children.

"Now men can go for this sperm washing to remove any trace of the virus," he said.

He added that the quality of spermatozoa submitted to the treatment diminishes by between 15 and 20 percent, so that it is usual that the usable quantity of the sample obtained is very small.

"The chance of a sample coming out of the treatment HIV positive is very low, and if the patient has the normal defenses and low levels of the virus detected in the blood, the result will be favorable," Dr. Epifanio said.

Panama has close to 14,000 cases of HIV, 10,000 of whom are being treated at hospitals of the public healthcare system, according to data of Probisida, an NGO foundation that aids those with HIV/AIDS.

The IVI group, world leader in reproductive medicine, has more than 70 clinics in 13 countries. Since 2007 it has made possible the birth of more than 800 babies by means of the most advanced assisted reproductive technology.