Just*in Time: January 2017

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Justin—
Been a while since we last chatted. I am really interested in surrogacy, as I want a child of my own. As I explained before I am positive, undetectable for many years. Can you advise me where I can go to get this done at an economical cost? Based on my research there are a few organizations that do it, but I would rather get a referral than take what I hear online. Any advice?
—Ebenezer

I hope all is well. I really want to give you advice, but first I would like to start out with my own story on fatherhood.

Photo by Don Harris © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved.
Photo by Don Harris © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved.

Before my husband and I got married we had a talk about children. He really wasn’t thinking about it, but I felt I had a need to procreate. So, after our talk, we decided that we would explore all options. At first, we looked at surrogacy by researching different clinics in our area. When we found one that we were comfortable with we made an appointment. We saw a doctor and mentioned that there might be an issue since I was HIV-positive. The doctor gave us options and mostly we didn’t like them. For instance, there is a hefty bill that comes along with trying surrogacy and being HIV-positive. So, the procedure of sperm cleansing will be very costly. Insemination of the surrogate costs about $10,000. Then you will need to make sure that the sperm has inseminated the woman; sometimes it doesn’t work the first time, which will cost more money. At the start of the process, you must find a woman who is willing to be inseminated by your sperm. You will then have to pay for her medical expenses for the entire pregnancy. Then you have the hospital expenses, as well. All in all, there is a pretty penny to pay when it comes to surrogacy. When we were looking for a company to go to that specialized in sperm cleansing for HIV-positive men it was suggested that, “some people mortgage their house to help pay the expenses.” This totally turned me off to the idea. But I think you need to go through your own journey with surrogacy. Everyone has to have their own journey when it comes to parenthood.

The one solution that my husband and I came upon was going through our state’s Department of Social Services (DSS). We took a training called PRIDE training, which was great and almost a week long. It was all about the rules and regulations of adopting or fostering a child. Our house then needed to get inspected by the Fire Marshal/Fire Commissioner to make sure it was safe to have children and the DSS had to come out to the house to tell us how many children we could have in our house (depends on the size). After this was complete we immediately got a call from DSS about a fourteen-year-old boy who identified as gay within hours of being approved because we did stipulate that we would take a LGBT youth that needed a home. Then our second son came to us because he knew of our first in high school. This is how we became parents.

Many people don’t think that people who are HIV-positive can become parents. At one meeting a person asked, “How do we keep the child away from the parent if the parent is HIV-positive?” When I heard a guy ask that question, my husband had to stop me from saying something—not to mention his wife was so embarrassed. But we had to educate him on his ignorance, and so we did. Just because you have HIV doesn’t mean you can’t use surrogacy to have a child, but know that there are plenty of children out there that need a loving home. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza ,and a Happy New Year.


Justin B. Terry-Smith, MPH, has been fighting the good fight since 1999. He’s garnered recognition and awards for his work, but he’s more concerned about looking for new ways to transform society for the better than resting on his laurels. He started up in gay rights and HIV activism in 2005, published an HIV-themed children’s book, I Have A Secret (Creative House Press) in 2011, and created his own award-winning video blog called, “Justin’s HIV Journal”: justinshivjournal.blogspot.com. Presently, he is working toward his doctorate in public health. Visit his main Web site at www.justinbsmith.com. He welcomes your questions at [email protected].