Effectiveness of semen washing to prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission and assist pregnancy in HIV-discordant couples: A systematic review and meta-analysis


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effectiveness of semen washing in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-discordant couples in which the male partner is infected. DESIGN: Systematic review and meta-analysis. SETTING: Not applicable. PATIENT(S): Forty single-arm open-label studies among HIV-discordant couples that underwent intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) with or without intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) using washed semen. INTERVENTION(S): Semen washing followed by IUI, IVF, or IVF/ICSI. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): PRIMARY OUTCOME: HIV transmission to HIV-uninfected women; secondary outcomes: HIV transmission to newborns and proportion of couples achieving a clinical pregnancy. RESULT(S): No HIV transmission occurred in 11,585 cycles of assisted reproduction with the use of washed semen among 3,994 women. Among the subset of HIV-infected men without plasma viral suppression at the time of semen washing, no HIV seroconversions occurred among 1,023 women after 2,863 cycles of assisted reproduction with the use of washed semen. Studies that measured HIV transmission to infants reported no cases of vertical transmission. Overall, 56.3% of couples (2,357/4,184) achieved a clinical pregnancy with the use of washed semen. CONCLUSION(S): Semen washing appears to significantly reduce the risk of transmission in HIV-discordant couples desiring children, regardless of viral suppression in the male partner. There are no randomized controlled studies or studies from low-income countries, especially those with a large burden of HIV. Continued development of lower-cost semen washing and assisted reproduction technologies is needed. Integration of semen washing into HIV prevention interventions could help to further reduce the spread of HIV.


Zafer M, Horvath H, Mmeje O, van der Poel S, Semprini AE, Rutherford G, Brown J.




  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population
    • General HIV- population
  • Prevention
    • Biomedical interventions


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