- Johns Hopkins Medicine announced Wednesday it recently performed the world's first liver transplant between donors and recipients who both were infected with HIV.
- The surgery was made possible by the passage of the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act of 2013 (HOPE Act), which reversed the prevention of doctors using organs from HIV-positive donors. The NIH developed safeguards for such transplants two years after the passage of the HOPE Act.
- Dr. Dorry Segev, professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, estimates about 500 to 600 HIV-postivie would-be organ donors die each year.
The surgery gives hopes for more life-saving opportunities, The Baltimore Sun noted. Last month, Segev estimated there would be up to 600 HIV-positive organ donors annually, which could save more than 1,000 lives.
“This is an unbelievably exciting day for our hospital and our team, but more importantly for patients living with both HIV and end-stage organ disease. For these individuals, this could mean a new chance at life,” Segev said.
“Organ transplantation is critical for patients with HIV, who die on the waiting list even faster than their HIV-negative counterparts,” said Segev. “We are very thankful to Congress, the president 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.”
In 2013, President Barack Obama signed the bipartisan HOPE Act, which updated 1988 regulations to reflect updates in advancing and understanding HIV treatment. Before the HOPE Act, organ donations from one person infected with HIV to another were illegal. As noted by the president in 2013, prior to the HOPE Act's passage, "It was even illegal to study wheter they could be safe and effective."
Before the passage of the HOPE Act, physicians wer concerned that organs from individuals infected with HIV could harm others if used for organ donation. However, as the Sun reports, "But for years before the ban was overturned there was growing consensus in the medical field that infected organs should be considered immediately because the alternative could be death."
HIV positive patients could already receive organs from non-HIV-infected patients.
Approximately 122,000 individuals are on the transplant waiting list in the U.S. at any one time.