Johns Hopkins University hospital is on course to become the first U.S. medical institution to transplant organs between H.I.V.-positive donors and H.I.V.-positive patients, according to the New York Times.
In November 2013, under President Obama, the H.I.V. Organ Policy Equity Act became law, removing legislation outlawing the donation of organs by H.I.V.-positive donors that had been in place since 1988. This change in the law initially freed up the possibility of research and will now shorten organ donor waiting lists for everyone, as the hospital at Johns Hopkins University becomes the first in the country to be granted approval to conduct transplants using organs from H.I.V.-positive donors.
Naturally, under the new laws, patients without the H.I.V. will not receive organs from H.I.V.-positive donors. However, as until now H.I.V.-positive patients have only been allowed to receive organs from donors without the H.I.V. virus, they have been in competition with all other patients for a place at the top of the waiting list. According to UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are currently 120,000 people in the United States waiting for organs to be donated and the wait can be long. The fact that H.I.V.-positive patients will now be able to accept organs from other sources will effectively free up more organs for everyone. Dr. Dorry Segev, associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a contributor to the drafting of the H.I.V. Organ Policy Equity Act, told the New York Times that this would be “the greatest increase in organ transplantation that we’ve seen in the past decade”. Dr. Segev estimated that organs from 500 or 600 potential donors are wasted every year because those potential donors are H.I.V.-positive.
Although sources such as U.S. News have reported that some medical officials have previously objected to the idea of using organs from H.I.V.-positive donors – claiming there is a risk of infection with the virus or that organs could become mixed-up and transplanted to the wrong patients – reaction to the news has largely been positive. Michael Kaplan, president of the lobbying group AIDS United, who has himself had AIDS since 1992, told the New York Times that he’d now be updating his own donor information:
The idea that my organs could now benefit someone living with HIV? Heck yeah
TIME reports that the first transplant operations will take place just as soon as suitable patients and donors are identified by the hospital.