It’s a different kind of bank that’s never impacted by a fall or rise in interest rates. Kenya’s sperm bank is a small but thriving system that never runs dry, literally speaking.
A sperm bank is a place where donors donate their sperm that can be used by an infertile couple to have children. Sperm banks are equipped with assisted reproductive health technology that ensures that fertile couples have a chance at getting pregnant.
There are currently only two facilities; one at the Kenyatta National Hospital which is facilitated through the University of Nairobi and the Fertility enhancement centre at the Nairobi hospital.
Young Kenyans desperate for money have become willing depositors for the sperm banks in return for cash.
Sperm donors are paid between Ksh10,000 and Ksh12,000, while the facilities sell to recipients at Ksh40,000 for intrauterine insemination and Ksh400,000 for IVF (in vitro fertilization), according to a report in the Standard on Sunday magazine.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a fertility treatment that places sperm directly into the uterus. IVF, on the other hand, is the process of fertilization by extracting eggs, retrieving a sperm sample, and then manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish. The embryo is then transferred to the uterus.
In Kenya, sperm donation is not regulated by the law and donations are usually anonymous. The donor has no parental rights or obligations, the report says. In the united United Kingdom, a new law removed anonymity for all donors and thus donor offspring have a right to identify their genetic parent once they are 18-years-old. These, some news sources say, led to a decline in sperm donation.
How do you become a donor?
Donors are picked based on their physical characteristics because recipients usually want a close physical match, Dr Wanyoike Gichuhi, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist and fertility expert at the Nairobi Fertility Clinic, which conducts donations every three months, said in an interview with Standard.
Donors are screened for infectious diséases such as HIV, Hepatitis B, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and more, genetic and systematic diséases before giving a sample.
After the screenings, the donor stays without e*********n for at least three days to produce good quality sperm. The donor e********s into a sterile cup through m**********n. The sample is them analysed to make sure it is of good quality. A good sperm has good movement, good count and good morphology – a normal sperm has an oval head with a long tail.
After the semen 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 d******s such as HIV.
Although there are no strict age requirements, majority of donors in Kenya are college students who are at the prime of their youth. People who don’t make the cut are the elderly, people with mental illness and smokers, as s*****g can damage the sperm, Dr Gichuhi notes.
Compensation is usually a small amount to cover the expenses of the donor during the whole process and is usually Ksh10,000-Ksh12,000. Although the recipients are usually couples and single women, sometimes there are cases where a couple doesn’t live together and the man decides to freeze the sperm for later use, so the couple can conceive without the hustle of travelling back and forth.
Recipients, the doctors say, are not usually very particular about the tribe of the donor, but they are when it comes to race. It is particularly hard to find donors of Asian and European descent.
“The donation is anonymous meaning that the donor will not know the recipient and the recipient will only know the basic characteristics of the donor such as height, complexion and age. One person can only donate three times,” Dr Gichuhi says.
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To reduce the chances of accidental i****t, one cannot donate sperms more than three times and sperm is often disposed of after about 10 years in the bank.
Sperm banks have become popular because of the needs of the modern man and woman who are either so career-focused or who drink too much ruining their fertility in the process or women who have always known that marriage is not for them but would love to have children.
In Kenya, the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill that seeks to regulate the use of reproductive technology states that a person who has reached the age of 18 may get information whether he or she was conceived by means of assisted reproduction.
The donor offspring also has the right to know if the person he or she proposes to marry could be a relative. The bill, however, does now allow for the release of information regarding the identity of a person whose gametes (sperm or egg) have been used or from whom an embryo has been taken if the donation was anonymous.