Pride Life Magazine - - SPONSORED FEATURE -

Win­ston is a 51-year-old gay man. For years he’s held on to a se­cret that only his part­ner and a se­lect few were privy to. Not even his fam­ily knew that he lived with be­ing HIV-pos­i­tive. He al­ways wanted chil­dren of his own, but feared that he could pass on the dis­ease to his off­spring. Then he met the good folks at Di­ver­sity Fer­til­ity Ser­vices. This is Win­ston’s jour­ney to a dream re­alised.

Ac­cord­ing to Pub­lic Health Eng­land (PHE), 13% of gay men in Lon­don have HIV and a shock­ing 108,000 through­out the UK con­tracted the dis­ease in 2013 and that num­ber, un­for­tu­nately, is in­creas­ing ev­ery year. Win­ston, who was di­ag­nosed sev­eral years ago, knew that if he stayed dili­gent with his med­i­ca­tion, he could sur­vive and be OK.

How­ever, as he be­gan to get more se­ri­ous with his part­ner Se­bas­tian, who he calls “the love of his life”, Win­ston started to take into con­sid­er­a­tion his fu­ture and, even more im­por­tantly, his legacy. “I be­gan to feel ma­jor anx­i­ety about whether chil­dren would be a re­al­ity for me. Of course, adop­tion was al­ways an op­tion, but doesn’t ev­ery man want to pass on his genes?

“I was in­tro­duced to He­len and Di­ver­sity Fer­til­ity by a work col­league. He and his wife used Di­ver­sity Fer­til­ity a cou­ple of years prior to hav­ing their daugh­ter. I held on to the busi­ness card for sev­eral months, look­ing at it al­most daily. I was afraid of shar­ing my story and leav­ing my­self open to judge­ment. I was even more afraid that help wouldn’t be avail­able to us be­cause of my dis­ease.”

“When Win­ston con­tacted us, it was ev­i­dent that he was very re­luc­tant to dis­close much in­for­ma­tion,” says He­len Stephens, CEO at Di­ver­sity Fer­til­ity. “Our in­ten­tion is to gather as much in­for­ma­tion from our clients di­rectly per­tain­ing to their jour­ney to par­ent­hood. It’s the only way to ac­cu­rately meet their needs head on. The more Win­ston and I spoke, the more rap­port we built with each other, and the more Win­ston shared. He in­formed me that he had HIV, and that he wished to have a child that was not in­fected by the dis­ease.

“Upon learn­ing this, I was able to re­fer Win­ston to a Fer­til­ity Cen­tre in the US that had the med­i­cal acu­men to deal with pa­tients in­fected with HIV and Hep B. We also made avail­able coun­selling ser­vices and a so­cial worker who worked with Win­ston’s GP and Fer­til­ity Spe­cial­ist and up­dated the cou­ple on re­sources that were avail­able to them.”

“This process can be daunting, if you don’t have the right agency,” ex­plains Win­ston. “In my case, He­len was able to ex­plain each step of the process in a way that any­one can un­der­stand. He­len and her staff made life so easy for us. Se­bas­tian and I both have stress­ful, de­mand­ing jobs, and I travel a lot. So be­ing able to trust her and min­imise our in­volve­ment in the mi­nor de­tails of the process, re­ally helped a great deal.

“It took us sev­eral weeks to find the right Egg Donor and then we were able to find a Sur­ro­gate which for us seemed easy com­pared to find­ing the Donor. We wanted the per­fect baby, so we needed the per­fect Donor. Di­ver­sity helped us find our right Donor. They fa­cil­i­tated Skype calls with our Donor and ar­ranged our vis­its with our Sur­ro­gate. They were even able to ar­range for our new­born to re­ceive the Sur­ro­gate Mother’s breast milk for sev­eral months, which was very im­por­tant to Se­bas­tian and I. There was no de­tail left out.”

“We en­cour­age bond­ing with your Sur­ro­gate Mother when­ever pos­si­ble,” ex­claims He­len. “It hu­man­ises the ex­pe­ri­ence and al­lows an in­tended par­ent to un­der­stand and share in the ex­pe­ri­ence of each mile­stone of their Sur­ro­gate Mother’s preg­nancy. At Di­ver­sity, we also of­fer LGBT and In­ter­na­tional Concierge Ser­vices, so that the process is well-planned, as stress-free and en­joy­able as it should be.”

“Our ex­pe­ri­ence with Di­ver­sity Fer­til­ity was one that we hoped for,” says Win­ston. “He­len and her staff had great em­pa­thy and took ex­cel­lent care of us. It’s ap­par­ent that they know ex­actly what they’re do­ing over there. Co­in­ci­dently, my sis­ter and her hus­band suf­fer from in­fer­til­ity and have tried to get preg­nant for years. I re­ferred them to He­len.

“As for us, our lit­tle Emily is 28 months, healthy and HIV-free. We just started the process with He­len for a sib­ling. I never thought it pos­si­ble. It’s a dream come true!”

When I de­cided to start my sur­ro­gacy jour­ney, my pri­or­ity was to first find the right Egg Donor. This process has not been easy as I started my jour­ney in De­cem­ber 2014 and only man­aged to find my right match in De­cem­ber 2015 and this is all thanks to find­ing the right agency, Di­ver­sity Fer­til­ity Ser­vices.

Be­fore I con­tacted He­len Stephens, di­rec­tor of Di­ver­sity Fer­til­ity Ser­vices (DFS), I had gone through 14 agen­cies with each of them promis­ing the “per­fect match”. Be­ing an Asian, my first pri­or­ity was that the Egg Donor must be of Asian eth­nic­ity; un­for­tu­nately this does not make it any eas­ier. I should have known, as there are over 30 eth­nic­i­ties within the “Asian” cul­ture.

A fer­til­ity doc­tor rec­om­mended He­len from Di­ver­sity Fer­til­ity Ser­vices as hav­ing many suc­cess­ful ex­pe­ri­ences with med­i­cal clin­ics. All it took was just one phone call with He­len and I knew we were in good hands.

Choos­ing an Egg Donor from DFS’s large pool could have been dif­fi­cult as DFS has a lot of high qual­ity and ex­tremely well ed­u­cated Egg Donors. But He­len pro­vided me pro­files specif­i­cally based on my pref­er­ences and my part­ner and I were able to short­list four pro­files that I im­me­di­ately liked. He­len went above and be­yond in telling me as much as pos­si­ble about her Donors. She didn’t just re­cite their pro­files, but, hav­ing met with each one per­son­ally, she could tell me ex­actly what their char­ac­ter­is­tics were based on her first im­pres­sions, feed­back from the agency’s psy­chol­o­gist (ev­ery Donor must be psy­cho­log­i­cally as­sessed prior to be­gin­ning an egg do­na­tion in the US) and of all of them and also very minute but im­por­tant de­tails.

What was also very im­por­tant for me was that He­len has so many ex­pe­ri­ences in this field that she was also able to quickly of­fer me an­swers on the Sur­ro­gate Moth­ers, the clinic and even re­fer me to proper le­gal coun­sel to ne­go­ti­ate my con­tracts and pro­tect my needs. He­len would be able to tell you her ex­pe­ri­ence with most, if not all, the IVF doc­tors in the coun­try, her suc­cess rates with them and, just as im­por­tantly, she would be able to pro­vide a pretty ac­cu­rate es­ti­mate (im­me­di­ately on the phone) on the over­all cost which in­cludes le­gal ser­vices, ho­tels, in­sur­ance and even how much flight tick­ets would roughly cost from one state to an­other.

But out of ev­ery­thing, what im­pressed me most about work­ing with He­len is that she can be very de­ci­sive. As my part­ner and I were wa­ver­ing be­tween Donor pro­files, He­len was able to help us make our de­ci­sion by gen­tly but ef­fec­tively keep­ing us fo­cused on the qual­i­ties we found to be most im­por­tant in our Donor. I am so for­tu­nate to have met He­len and have worked with Di­ver­sity Fer­til­ity, and I can­not thank you enough to be blessed with He­len’s in­cred­i­ble ex­per­tise and pa­tience in con­sult­ing and coun­selling us through­out this whole process whether it’s 4am in the morn­ing or 9pm at night.

“He­len was able to ex­plain each step of the process in a way that any­one can un­der­stand.

HE­LEN AND HER STAff made life so easy for us”

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