Prof. Pietro Vernazza of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Kantonsspital St. Gallen, Switzerland, talks with HIVE’s Shannon Weber about safer conception options and his amazing research and knowledge about safer conception options for serodifferent couples. Prof. Vernazza is a true pioneer for safer conception: he started helping serodifferent couples who wanted to have babies in 1996.
In 2000, “I realized that these couples were really at low risk of transmitting the virus and we were offering them a difficult, expensive, cumbersome service [sperm-washing]” (Vernazza).
In 2003, Prof. Vernazza (talking with serodifferent couples where the male partner had an undetectable viral load), “started to discuss with these couples and ask them, ‘how big do you think the risk is? And from what we know and what we see in your semen sample, is there is no virus, so to start with I would consider this to be very low risk.'” So, he started to say that couples could have sex without a condom when the female partner was ovulating if the male partner had had an undetectable viral load and no STIs were present, along with other factors.
In his study of 53 couples who were trying to conceive, “there were certainly no transmissions” (Vernazza).
When asked about PrEP, Prof. Vernazza says, “I have a little bit of trouble when people suggest that we should offer PrEP for the negative partner in addition to an antiretroviral treatment of the positive partner… I think this is really an overkill… It’s actually overuse of resources.”