Researchers from the John Hopkins University will be performing the first ever kidney and liver transplant between patients diagnosed with HIV. This is a remarkable step forward, as patients with HIV will be able to contribute to the high demand for organ donations, and could ultimately save thousands of lives in the US alone.
HIV positive patients are able to accept organ donations from those who are not infected. However, it is forbidden to transplant organs from an individual with HIV even if the recipient also has HIV. At least, it was illegal from 1998 to 2013.
President Barack Obama signed the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act and thus lifted the ban.
Experts assert that this ban wasted hundreds of suitable organs from HIV patients. In fact, because of the ban, it is estimated that suitable organs from over 500 people with HIV went to waste each year, Dorry Segev, associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University, told the Times. Now, Johns Hopkins says the institution has received transplant approval from the United Network for Organ Sharing — a non-profit organization that manages the country’s organ transplant system.
The transplant will be conducted as soon as they find a recipient and the matching organ.
“Organ transplantation is actually even more important for patients with HIV, since they die on the waiting list even faster than their HIV-negative counterparts,” Segev said in a statement. “We are very thankful to Congress, Obama and the entire transplant community for letting us use organs from HIV-positive patients to save lives, instead of throwing them away, as we had to do for so many years.”
This development is new in the US, but in other parts of the world, organ transplants from HIV patients are already being conducted. In 2010, Groote Schuur Hospital in South Africa performed kidney transplants between HIV infected patients. Last year, this hospital reported that the results from these transplants were promising, showing that the survival rate is only modestly lower than those transplants from those who are not infected with HIV.
Although this appears to be a wonderful solution to the high demand of organ transplants, doctors are only using organs from deceased patients.
And to be clear, these is still a risk of getting infected with HIV, so these organ transplants are only being done on patients who are both HIV-positive. Although that’s the case, it is still a big step towards improving and ultimately saving lives. Performing transplants between HIV-positive patients will result in the “greatest increase in organ transplantation that we’ve seen in the past decade,” Segev said.