Across the world, gamet (sperm and egg) donation has been recognised and considered a noble cause in assisting people to conceive. This has helped put millions of smiles on the faces of deserving families worldwide.
In Kenya, gamet donation has continued to grow into a lucrative business, however, it still remains unregulated and understudied.
According to Surrogate Mother Kenya, sperm donation is the process by which a healthy man can donate sperm to be used for artificial insemination of a female, who is not his partner. The intended male may donate his sperm either privately, through a sperm bank, or directly to the couple.
Infertility specialist and gynaecologist, Dr Wanyoike Gichuhi told The Standard in an interview 4 years ago that sperm banks are meant to help couples which are unable to conceive have children.
Though anyone below the age of 50 can donate their sperm, some of the official sperm banks in the country including Kenyatta National Hospital and Nairobi Fertility Clinic, prefer men aged between 19 and 26 years.
Dr Gichuhi noted that, for this reason, university students are preferred as donors.
“Often the men in this group haven’t started a family and would be in need of pocket change to do a few things for themselves,” he told The Standard.
He adds that university students are most likely to have a higher intelligence quotients, however, notes that IQ is not the only factor they consider in the donor since there are several other factors that determine the intelligence of the child.
Dr. Gichuhi revealed that clinics however take into account the race, complexion, height and other physical fitness features.
“What we don’t record is ethnicity. We don’t think it is an important factor for those interested in having healthy babies,” Gichuhi said.
For university students in Kenya grappling with financial challenges, sperm donations have become their go-to solution. Dr. Gichuhi revealed that at the Nairobi fertility clinic, donors are compensated with Ksh2,000 per visit.
“There are several visits that they have to make as we check them for physical illnesses as well as venereal diseases,” he explained.
In total, a donor receives up to Ksh15,000. Dr. Gichuhi explained that the entire process from the first day at the clinic to donation and the testing of sperm quality could last for months.
For university students and young Kenyans looking to make a quick buck to survive or cater for emergency bills, a stroke of the magic wand births an easy Ksh15,000.
“What I have is a precious resource. If someone needs it and they are willing to pay me, why not give it to them? I also want to make money to sustain my needs at school,” Tom, then a University of Nairobi student told The Standard.
How to become a donor and the donor process
For one to become a donor, they are crossexamined for their physical and intellectual attributes. After selection, they are screened for infectious diséases such as HIV, Hepatitis B, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and more, genetic and systematic diséases before giving a sample.
After screening, the donor is required to retain his sperms for at least three days after which he makes the donation. The donated sample is then analysed to ensure that its is viable and of high quality.After testing, the sample is frozen in liquid nitrogen for six months before being used, during which the donor is tested again at the third and sixth month for infectious diseases such as HIV.
Dangers of Donating Multiple Times
According to Dr. Gichuhi, a donor should limit himself to not more than three times.
“If a donor donates many times there is a risk that the children borne of his sperms may actually meet in a sexual relationship in future,” Dr. Gichuhi said.
This means that in future, a brother could meet a sister and get married or have a sexual relationship, which is incest and will lead to the birth of children with congenital conditions.
Dr Khandwala Shounak, IVF director at Mediheal Group of Hospitals advices that a man should donate donate not more than eight to ten times in their life time.
“But to prevent genetic pooling, maybe eight to 10 times in one’s lifetime, in different laboratories or sperm banks,” he told The Star.
In 2019, Suba North Member of Parliament Millie Odhiambo tabled the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill before parliament which moved to have adults who have attained the age of 18 the right to know whether they were conceived through artificial insemination.
The bill further states that the donor offspring also has the right to know if the person he or she proposes to marry could be a relative. It, however, does now allow for the release of information regarding the identity of the donor if the donation was anonymous.