Can I Have Children If I Have HIV?
Yes. If you want to be a parent, having HIV shouldn’t stop you. There are several options for HIV-positive women and men who want to be parents.
If you are an HIV-positive woman and you are pregnant—or want to become pregnant—talk to your healthcare provider. There are drugs you can take during pregnancy, labor, and delivery to help prevent your baby from being infected with HIV. (Read more on our page about Pregnancy and Childbirth.)
If you are an HIV-positive man and you want to have children, there are several options. One is a process called sperm washing. Others include Artificial insemination with donor sperm and adoption.
What Should I Know About HIV and Pregnancy?
If you are an HIV-positive woman and you become pregnant, visit your healthcare provider as soon as possible. If you have not been taking antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), you can start taking them safely at the beginning of your second trimester of pregnancy (12 weeks).
If you are already on ARVs and become pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider immediately to make sure you are taking the safest ones. In many cases, women continue on the drugs they were taking before becoming pregnant. But you and your healthcare provider should discuss your options and choose a treatment that is best for you.
It is better to be treated with ARVs throughout your pregnancy, but you can still receive treatment even during labor and delivery. Be sure to tell the medical staff at the hospital or clinic where you go to deliver that you are HIV-positive. They can give you treatment to protect your baby.
For more information on ARVs and Pregnancy, see the AIDSInfo Fact Sheet on HIV Drugs and Pregnant Women (PDF).
For other information on pregnancy and childbirth for HIV-positive women, visit our page, Pregnancy and Childbirth.
What Is Sperm Washing?
Sperm washing is a process in which a man’s sperm are washed free of HIV before being inserted into a woman. It is a way to help HIV discordant, or mixed status, couples conceive a baby without passing the virus from the father to the mother or child.
Sperm washing appears to significantly decrease the risk of passing HIV infection from an HIV-positive man to an HIV-negative woman. However, it is still controversial. In 1990, CDC issued a recommendation against sperm washing, citing a case in which a previously HIV-negative woman was found to be HIV-positive after she was inseminated with washed sperm from her HIV-positive husband. That recommendation has never been revised.
More recent studies have found sperm washing to be safe, as long as the washing is done by qualified medical personnel. For more information, see the September 2007 edition of AIDS: Official Journal of the International AIDS Society.
Sperm washing can be time-consuming and very expensive. It is rarely covered by insurance. Consult with your healthcare provider for more information.
How About Artificial Insemination?
Another option for having children is artificial insemination using donor sperm from a sperm bank. By law, donor sperm samples are tested for HIV, so women who are artificially inseminated with donor sperm are protected against HIV infection.
Is Adoption an Option?
Adoption is another option for people living with HIV/AIDS who want to have children. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may prohibit adoption agencies from discriminating against couples or individuals living with HIV/AIDS.
Your HIV/AIDS service providers may be able to refer you to the proper agencies or organizations and help you begin the adoption process. If you believe you are being discriminated against in an adoption because you are living with HIV/AIDS, please contact the Department of Justice by visiting http://www.ada.gov/aids/.
Fact Sheets & Print Materials
- AIDSInfo – Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV
- AIDSInfo – The Use of HIV Medicines During Pregnancy
- AIDSInfo – Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV During Childbirth
- AIDSInfo – Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV After Birth
- CDC – HIV Among Pregnant Women, Infants and Children
Related Topics on AIDS.gov
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a couple of mixed HIV status conceive a baby without passing the virus to the uninfected partner?
It is risky for mixed-status couples to attempt to conceive on their own. Having unprotected sex to have a baby poses a risk of passing the virus to the uninfected partner.
A safer option is to seek assistance at a fertility clinic. Some fertility clinics offer a sperm-washing program for HIV-infected men or an artificial insemination program for HIV-infected women, so that couples of mixed HIV status can try to conceive a child without exposing the uninfected partner to HIV. This is legal in some states, but not all.
Can two HIV-positive parents have an HIV-negative child?
Yes, they can. HIV infection in both parents does not appear to affect the likelihood of having an HIV-infected baby. An HIV-positive mother can pass the virus to her child during pregnancy, at the time of birth, or when breastfeeding the infant—but medical treatment of both the mother and her infant during pregnancy and delivery can reduce the chances of this happening.
- NIAID - New Study Examines Best Ways to Prevent Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission and Preserve Maternal and Infant Health
- CDC – One Test. Two Lives.
- AIDSInfo – Perinatal Clinical Guidelines
- HHS Office on Women’s Health – Protecting Your Children From HIV
Last revised: 01/25/2012