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Renegade sperm donor triggers US probe




 

WASHINGTON, Jan 27, 2012 (AFP) - A California man who donates his sperm for
free to couples who want to have a baby is being investigated by US regulators
but insists he will continue his efforts as a matter of goodwill.

Trent Arsenault, 36, first attracted scrutiny from the US Food and Drug
Administration in 2009 for his free sperm donations, which he says resulted in
14 births with several more babies on the way.

A cease-and-desist letter from the FDA in November 2010 did not dissuade
him -- there have been five pregnancies and one birth since that notice
arrived, he told AFP, adding that he still has no hearing date with the
regulatory agency.

"I want to continue because the amount of e-mails from childless couples
has been tremendous," Arsenault said. "All of them have similar stories --
that it is too costly to conceive via a sperm bank."

People who purchase from a registered sperm bank typically pay between $200
and $675 per dose, according to Fairfax Cryobank in Virginia.

Arsenault's personal website, trentdonor.org, describes him as a
blond-haired, brown-eyed Silicon Valley tech worker.

His background is half German, one quarter Irish and one quarter French. He
learned to play piano by ear by the age of eight, speaks Spanish and English,
is "amazed by nature" and studied engineering at the US Naval Academy in
Annapolis, Maryland.

He donates his sperm at no cost to "married couples with fertility
challenges and female domestic partners," according to his site which links to
a donor agreement that absolves him of responsibility and visitation rights.

His recipients are not named but numerous pictures of babies are posted
along with anonymous testimonials such as "advanced for her age," "healthy...
strong," and "everything I could ever ask for in life."

The FDA declined to comment because the matter involves an open
investigation.

However the agency said in an email to AFP that sperm donations must be
screened for a host of sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV, hepatitis
and gonorrhea.

"Under FDA's regulations, sperm donors are required to be screened for risk
factors that may increase the chances of transmitting a communicable disease,"
it said. "FDA regulations apply to tissue intended for transplantation only."

Arsenault has posted online copies of lab results showing he tested
negative for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis A, B and C, and herpes.

However his sperm samples are labeled: "For immediate transfer to SIP
(sexually intimate partner)," "Not evaluated for infectious substances," and
"Warning: advise recipient of communicable disease risks," his website says.

Arsenault has appealed the FDA's order on the basis that "he could provide
documentation by and testimony from women to whom he had donated.... that he
was a sexually intimate partner," according to legal documents.

In that case, he should be considered "exempt from the regulatory
requirements," his lawyer argued in the documents. Arsenault said he is
currently awaiting a response from the FDA.

According to Trina Leonard, a spokeswoman for Fairfax Cryobank in Virginia,
people who use his services may be saving a few hundred dollars but are
risking a lot.

"There is so much testing and protection involved with donor sperm from a
reputable bank that is not in place for people who are using this renegade
sperm donor," she told AFP.

"This is like conceiving a baby with somebody you just met, or unprotected
sex on a first date with. It is completely unprotected, unscreened,
un-anything-ed. That is just crazy," she added.

Only one to two percent of all would-be sperm donors are accepted by
official sperm banks, and donors tend to be paid $100 to $150 per donation,
Leonard said.

As to what motivates Arsenault, his website contains 10 bullet point
descriptions including his "spirit of volunteering to the community," his
respect for women, his faith in God, and his rejection of powerful
corporations that profit from commercial sperm banks.

"One of Trent's closest childhood friends was an only child whose parents
tried for years to conceive," it adds.

"Trent knows first-hand the struggle families go through to have a child
and he wishes to help."




 


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Information in this article was accurate in January 27, 2012. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.