Today New Zealand launches the world's first HIV positive sperm bank in a bid to remove the negative stigma experienced by those living with the virus.

It comes ahead of this year's World Aids Day, on Sunday, December 1.

Damien Rule-Neal is one of the first three donors to give sperm to the online clinic, called Sperm Positive.

"I want people to know life doesn't stop after being diagnosed with HIV and that it is safe to have children if you're on treatment," Rule Neal told the Herald.


The now 45-year-old discovered he was HIV positive 20 years ago but it was confirmed undetected shortly after he started taking treatment.

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This means he's been unable to transmit the virus to others for 18 years.

He says the lack of understanding from the general public has been a constant battle.

"I've experienced a lot of stigma living with HIV, both at work and in my personal life that has come from people being misinformed about the virus.

"I received a promotion two years after being in my job and decided to tell my boss I had HIV but it backfired and I was let go.

"HR got involved and I eventually came back but I couldn't handle the bullying. I had people call me dirty, which I can't stand, and others who wouldn't even shake my hand so I left."

Now, he's turning a new leaf.


"I want to do something positive with my diagnosis. I had kids before I was diagnosed, now I want to give others that opportunity ."

Sperm Positive are working with a number of fertility clinics who will act as the middle-person between the donor and patients. It will be made clear to people looking for a donor that they have HIV but are on treatment and have the blood tests to show their virus is undetectable.

Auckland District Health Board infectious diseases physician Mark Thomas, who has been working with people living with HIV for more than 30 years, said more than a decade ago the World Health Organisation confirmed HIV treatment prevented transmission, even through sex without a condom and childbirth.

"This was life-changing for many people living with HIV, but due to the negative stigma, it's still not widely understood - even among doctors."

Melinda Susanto, who lives with HIV Positive, and her two healthy children Loro, 7, and Kirana, 4. Photo / Supplied
Melinda Susanto, who lives with HIV Positive, and her two healthy children Loro, 7, and Kirana, 4. Photo / Supplied

Hastings mum-of-two Melinda Susanto is living proof of the effectiveness of taking treatment.

She was diagnosed in 2006 and since then has had two healthy and happy children.

"At the time of my diagnosis, their dad was tested and found to be negative, he remains negative, and it took us four years to make the informed choice to have children, knowing they would be fine.

"My son was conceived via an artificial insemination, as was recommended at the time, but my daughter was conceived naturally and I was able to make the choice to have a home birth, an extremely empowering thing for me.

"The fact that medication means I cannot pass the virus to others has been a game changer.

"However, what remains constant is the discrimination, stereotypes and lack of education. For me, this is the hardest barrier and struggle I have to face."

About HIV:

• HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It infects and damages cells in your immune system known as CD4 cells (T4 cells), a type of white blood cell that makes up a major part of your immune system.

• While many people with HIV continue to look and feel well throughout their lifetime, some can go on to develop different infections and cancers that the body would otherwise normally be able to fight. This can lead to an HIV positive person being diagnosed with AIDS.

• About 3800 people live with HIV in New Zealand.

• People living with HIV will take a combination of different anti-HIV drugs – known as antiretroviral therapy (ART). These drugs need to be taken daily.

• An undetectable viral load means that the amount of HIV in a person's blood is so low that the virus cannot be measured by standard methods. This means that the treatment is effective and working well for them – it does not mean the HIV has been cured. It also means the HIV is untransmittable.