A hospital in the US has approved a new system to allow organs to be transplanted in HIV-positive people.
At present, people with HIV are ineligible as organ donors, over fears about possible transmission to the recipients of the transplanted organs.
This means that hundreds of viable organs every year are rejected because of HIV status, amid an organ shortage and lengthy waiting lists.
However, one Baltimore hospital has given the go-ahead to changes that would allow HIV-positive organ transplants to go ahead, in cases where both the donor and the recipient have HIV.
The new procedure at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine – could save the lives of people in need of a transplant who have HIV, while easing the pressure on overall waiting lists for organs.
Dr Dorry Segev told the New York Times that allowing donations could save more than 1,000 people, adding: “That’d be the greatest increase in organ transplantation that we’ve seen in the past decade.”
Transplanting HIV-positive organs was a federal crime until Obama signed the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act in 2013, which overturned the ban and paved the way for the new developments.
The news also marks an important turning point, given the growing life expectancy of people with HIV.
Transplants to people with HIV were previously considered futile – but given modern treatments, people with HIV can still live long lives.
Dr David Klassen of the United Network for Organ Sharing explained: “[Previously], nobody would consider transplanting an HIV-positive recipient because everyone knew their life span was short.
“The notion that HIV-positive recipients could be transplanted arose as a result of their extended life spans.”