Pleas Grow to End Transplant Ban Between HIV Patients
At a congressional briefing last week, HIV and transplant experts joined patients in calling for legislation that would allow HIV-positive people to donate organs to other HIV-positive people. Such a move would speed the transplant process for people with the virus while reducing the long waiting lists for uninfected patients, said Dr. Peter Stock, a University of California-San Francisco transplant surgeon.
“Any opportunity we have to get a group of people transplanted quicker and open up spots for others makes a whole lot of sense. Patients with HIV are frequently getting too sick to wait for the transplant,” said Stock. Lifting the ban would “skim five years, six years off the waiting list.”
Doctors would need to conduct clinical trials to ensure transplants between HIV-positive people are safe. However, these can only be done once the federal ban is ended, since that 1988 law prohibits HIV-positive organ donations even for research purposes. Some experts are worried about the chance for passing drug-resistant HIV from a donor to a recipient whose virus is well-controlled. But Stock and others say treatments have advanced to the point where the likelihood of that is minimal.
“If the recipient’s viral load is suppressed, it’s highly unlikely they’ll get additional strain of virus. But that is going to be one of the goals of the research,” said Dr. Michael Horberg, chair-elect of the HIV Medicine Association.
An estimated 500 HIV-positive US patients die annually from non-virus-related causes, making their organs eligible for donation, according to a 2011 study. Several hundred HIV patients are on donor waiting lists - meaning that, in theory, there are enough potential HIV-positive donors for every HIV-positive patient needing a transplant.
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