Screening IVF couples for HIV and hepatitis allows informed choices

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Last Updated: 2001-07-24 13:27:39 EDT (Reuters Health)

LONDON (Reuters Health) – Despite having a low prevalence of HIV and hepatitis B infection, couples who seek in vitro fertilization (IVF) should be screened for these viruses to allow them to make an informed decision on whether to proceed.

In 1999, R. Hart, from the University College Hospital, in London, and colleagues assessed the prevalence of HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C infection in 408 couples seeking IVF at St. Thomas' Hospital in London. The prevalence of HIV and hepatitis B infection in 4291 and 6854 individuals, respectively, in the antenatal population was used for comparison.

The prevalence of HIV infection in the IVF and antenatal groups was 0.13% and 0.8%, respectively, the authors note. The prevalence of hepatitis B infection in the same distribution was 1.7% and 1.4%. The prevalence of hepatitis C infection in the IVF group was 0.5%. However, the antenatal population was not tested for hepatitis C infection.

"Our study demonstrates that the incidence of HIV and hepatitis B infection is low and comparable to that in our antenatal population," the investigators state.

"It is important to test couples before assisted conception so they can make an informed decision as to whether they wish to proceed with treatment," the investigators note in the June issue of the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

However, "a study addressing the psychological implications of the mandatory screening of a couple before assisted conception needs to be performed," the researchers emphasize. "It is important that when routine testing is implemented expert counselling is available."

Br J Obstet Gynaecol 2001;108:654-656.

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