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Rambam Medical Center in Haifa on Tuesday will launch the first in vitro fertilization unit in Israel for HIV carriers with fertility difficulties who had been rejected from treatment in other hospitals.

The new unit was put together after a Supreme Court appeal filed by six women, all HIV carriers, and the Israel AIDS Task Force, against the Health Ministry.

The unit will also serve carriers of other viruses, and it already has a waiting list with several women waiting for treatment.

The Rambam unit opens just two days after the launch of a sperm washing institute at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem, allowing men who carry the HIV virus to conceive healthy children together with non-carrier spouses.

The opening of the new unit at Rambam has been postponed at least four times. The medical center and the Health Ministry jointly invested NIS 2 million in the clinic, and it includes a number of labs and sub-clinics.

The unit is located in a remote, discreet area of the hospital, to afford for maximum privacy for the patients.

"I'm thrilled to cut the ribbon for the unit, but what will truly convince me this is really happening will be to cut the umbilical chord for the first child born as a result of the process," Yonatan Karni, director of the Israel AIDS Task Force, said Monday. "To get to this day we had to go through the Supreme Court and four years of public battles. To my surprise the greatest obstacle was the obstinacy of the healthcare system. I found that just like with the virus, no one is immune to ignorance - no matter what their profession or even educational background might be."

Although Israel boasts one of the highest availabilities of fertility treatment in the world, it never before had the facilities to carry out IVF treatment for HIV carriers.

Many advances

Today, an HIV carrier who receives treatment has almost the same life expectancy as the rest of the population, and certain medical treatment enables carrier to conceive and give birth to healthy children.

Following the Supreme Court appeal by the task force and six women, in 2006 the Health Ministry set up a committee to look into fertility treatments among carriers of HIV and Hepatitis B and C.

The committee recommended setting up a separate infrastructure for fertility treatment for such patients, despite the fact that in many Western countries carriers receive the treatment in ordinary clinics.

The multiple postponements of the opening led to the Health Ministry being sharply rebuked by the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee.

The committee demanded the ministry stop dragging their feet.