People living with HIV are forced to travel abroad for fertility treatments, as no private fertility clinics here have a laboratory to process samples from people with the virus.
The leading fertility expert said the problem was “made worse” by Ireland’s failure to provide IVF on the public health service.
Under European regulations on assisted reproduction, separate laboratory storage is required for samples from HIV-positive people.
In Ireland, where the vast majority of treatment is provided by private clinics, there is no such laboratory with dedicated storage for HIV-positive patients.
Dr John Lambert, consultant in infectious diseases and genitourinary medicine, said the requirement for separate storage of samples did not apply to people living with hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Through a clinic in the Rotonde, it takes care of people who wish to undergo IVF.
“So it’s a bit peculiar, because they’re all bloodborne viruses when you think about it,” Dr Lambert said. “The situation is that if you are HIV positive, you have to leave the country.
“I actually sent two HIV-positive patients to London for IVF, and they were successful in IVF, but they had to pay out of pocket. The costs were probably around €10,000, that’s a lot of money. There is no option, public or private, to go through IVF if you are HIV positive in Ireland. We just don’t have those resources.
Dr Lambert said traveling for IVF was a ‘big business’ as patients would have to travel ‘back and forth to the UK multiple times and that involves a lot of expense.
“It should be available in Ireland, it should be standard. It’s not fair to make it available to some people, and not to those who are HIV-positive.
It’s unfair,” he said.
Professor Mary Wingfield, clinical director of the Merrion Fertility Clinic, said the lack of fertility treatment in Ireland for people living with HIV “is a problem”.
“IVF clinics internationally generally have separate laboratories and freezing facilities for these patients due to the risk of contamination from other samples. No clinic in Ireland has this capability. Even in the UK , there is only
a handful of centers that treat people with HIV.
“We send all patients who come here to Liverpool and have a good working relationship with this unit. Again, part of this is compounded by the lack of commitment to fertility care in our public health system,” she said.
A spokeswoman for SIMS IVF said UK clinics providing fertility treatment to HIV-positive patients “were either fully or partially funded by the government. There is no such government support in Ireland”.