Assessing access to assisted reproductive services for serodiscordant couples with human immunodeficiency virus infection

Although assisted reproductive technology services for HIV-serodiscordant couples are more available than previously reported, their availability differed for “secret shopper” callers posing as patients or physicians.

Volume 109, Issue 3, Pages 473–477


Ashley A. Leech, Ph.D., M.S., Pietro Bortoletto, M.D., Cindy Christiansen, Ph.D., Mari-Lynn Drainoni, Ph.D., Benjamin P. Linas, M.D., M.P.H., Cassandra Roeca, M.D., Megan Curtis, M.D., M.S., Meg Sullivan, M.D.



To understand the barriers that serodiscordant couples with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) face in accessing services for risk reduction and infertility using assisted reproductive technology (ART).


Two-arm cross-sectional telephone “secret shopper” study.


Infertility clinics designated by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), 140 from 15 American states with the highest prevalence of heterosexual HIV-infected men.


Clinical and nonclinical staff at SART-registered clinics.


Standardized telephone calls to SART-registered clinics by investigators in the roles of physician and patient callers.

Main Outcome Measure(s)

Availability and difference in services offered to callers and the rate of referral if the clinic did not provide these services.


Of the 140 sampled SART clinics across 15 states, callers in both patient and physician roles spoke to a staff member at greater than 90% of targeted clinics (127 clinics total). Of the physician callers 63% were told that the clinic could offer services, as compared to 40% of patient callers. Of the 55 clinics that were unable to provide services to the patient caller, 51% referred to other clinics with confidence that they could offer these services; 67% of clinics would provide services for both prevention and infertility purposes.


Risk reduction services for HIV were more available at the sampled fertility clinics than previously reported in the literature. However, the responses depended on the person calling. The clinics demonstrated low rates of concordance with the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's guidelines, which endorse referral of patients to other facilities from sites unable to offer services.

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