Bedford Research Foundation scientists have been studying Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic in 1983. The focus has been on HIV infection in semen.

Our work with HIV-discordant couples is part of:

The Special Program of Assisted Reproduction (SPAR)

HIV Sperm WashingSPAR is the only program in the country that uses highly sensitive PCR tests for HIV (and other infectious disease) in combination with “sperm washing” to minimize the risk of transmitting the father’s infection to the mother and child during assisted reproduction. These semen tests are also used to monitor HIV and other infectious disease therapy and may help predict therapy failure.

In August, 2007, Dr. Ann Kiessling, founder of SPAR, was interviewed for This Month in HIV – A Podcast of Critical News in HIV on TheBody.com.

SPAR and HIV therapy monitoring website: http://www.bedfordspar.org

A Brief Overview & History

SPAR started in 1994 as a support group for couples living with HIV disease. The goal of SPAR was to use Assisted Reproductive Technologies to help couples achieve a pregnancy without transmitting the father’s infection to the mother or the child.

The basic premise is that using sperm from semen specimens with no detectable virus would decrease the risk of transmitting infection. To accomplish this goal, sensitive assays for HIV in semen were developed with grant support from Bedford Research Foundation (formerly Assisted Reproduction Foundation).

Baby Ryan, the first SPAR baby, was born May, 1999 (www.americanradioworks.org).

Infectious Disease Research Fund

Foundation scientists have been analyzing semen specimens from men infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) since 1997. The primary goal has been to develop routine laboratory assays for HIV in the semen of men seeking to parent. Sperm from only those specimens with undetectable virus are used to attempt pregnancy, thus markedly decreasing risks to mothers and babies.

Importantly, during the course of the research, it has become apparent that semen virus arises from an infection reservoir separate from blood infection, and that periodic monitoring of semen specimens for viral burden may be important to prevent HIV disease progression.

The research and test procedures are expensive, and an additional burden to the already staggering costs for anti-retroviral medications. Gifts to this program can be earmarked to help offset costs of testing for couples seeking to parent.

We are especially interested in helping support the parenting goals of HIV-infected men with hemophilia. Approximately 10,000 men and boys with hemophilia were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C virus in the early 1980’s, before the U.S. blood supply was routinely tested for these two viruses. The blood clotting factors required to prevent people with hemophilia from bleeding to death were contaminated with the viruses. It is estimated that 7,500 of those infected have now died; those remaining on aggressive anti-retroviral therapy have a high likelihood of living a normal life span.

Foundation scientists are also seeking funds to support developing laboratory tests for other sexually transmitted viruses, including Hepatitis B (and possibly Hepatitis C), and Human T-Cell Leukemia Viruses I and II.

Funding is also being sought to transfer the semen testing technologies to other countries, The first step is to identify appropriate testing sites. For additional information about this goal, please contact us directly.