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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 12, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 07
HIV+ to HIV+ organ transplants OKed
Section One
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HIV+ to HIV+ organ transplants OKed

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The United Network for Organ Sharing - the group authorized by Congress to manage organ donations - has approved a plan by Johns Hopkins University to begin transplants from HIV-positive organ donors to HIV-positive recipients.

'This is an unbelievably exciting day for our hospital and our team, but more importantly for patients living with HIV and end-stage organ disease. For these individuals, this means a new chance at life,' Dorry L. Segev, an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a statement.

Until 2013, use of organs from HIV-positive donors was illegal. Then the HOPE Act, or HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, was passed by Congress and signed into law. The HOPE Act allows HIV-positive-to-HIV-positive organ transplants.

According to Segev, as many as 600 new transplant patients could be accommodated under the HOPE Act. Some 122,000 are on the transplant waiting list at any particular time, and thousands of patients die every year while awaiting new organs.

Johns Hopkins said it is ready to perform the transplants immediately, as soon as patients are identified. The university hopes to be the first in the world to perform an HIV-positive-to-HIV-positive liver transplant and the first in the country to do an HIV-positive-to-HIV-positive kidney transplant.

South Africa has been allowing HIV-positive-to-HIV-positive kidney transplants for several years and has seen good outcomes.

Using organs from HIV-positive donors had been banned in the United States because the virus has been known to 'hide' in patients' organs in a latent form. However, transplanting organs to an HIV-positive recipient carries no risk of spreading the virus.

The United Network for Organ Sharing was established by Congress in 1984 to manage organ donation and to set policies on testing, transport, and other protocols to ensure the safety of the recipient.

U.S. rules governing organ procurement, patient eligibility, ranking of wait lists, and accreditation of hospitals that can perform transplants have been criticized for being unnecessarily complex.

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