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Hospital performs first HIV-positive organ transplants

Joseph McCormick March 31, 2016
Surgery

A hospital has performed the first organ transplants between HIV-positive patients to take place in the US.

Johns Hopkins Medicine earlier this year announced that it would commence the transplants between HIV-positive donors and recipients.

Now the hospital has performed the first liver and kidney transplants from a HIV-positive donor to a HIV-positive recipient.

One of the transplant surgeons has been locked in a lengthy battle in order to be allowed federal approval to perform the surgery.

Dorry L Segev said he sat for too long watching HIV-positive patients die whilst waiting on transplant waiting lists because transplants from HIV-positive donors were banned.

He said “it wasn’t a medical issue, it was entirely legal”.

“We were watching patients die, and we were watching organs being wasted,” he continued.

The associate professor of surgery and epidemiology at the Hopkins School of Medicine attributed the ban to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, which saw the National Organ Transplant Act passed.

Research by Segev from 2011 suggested that as many as 1,000 lives could be saved each year if HIV-positive donations were allowed.

But he said it was very difficult to get the issue to be discussed in Washington.

“The hardest thing was to get it on their radar,” Segev said on Wednesday, announcing the successful transplants.

The transplants performed this month, saw a liver transplanted to one patient, and a kidney to another.

Both patients, who were not named, were doing well. One had been discharged and the other was awaiting a discharge notice.

The Baltimore hospital was given the go-ahead to perform the surgeries earlier this year.

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.”

More: AIDS, HIV, johns hopkins, kidney, liver, organ transplant, transplant

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