The first HIV-positive organ transplants in the United States will take place at Johns Hopkins Hospital, it has recently been announced.
Between 1988 up until November 2013, hospitals were banned from performing transplants with organs donated by HIV-positive patients.
However, through the HIV Organ Policy Equality Act (also known as the HOPE Act), it’s now possible for HIV-positive organs to be transplanted to individuals who already have the human immunodeficiency virus.
The HOPE Act was initially proposed on February 14, 2013 by California Senator Barbara Boxer, as an amendment for the National Organ Transplant Act.
In the past, it had been considered of no avail to provide transplants to patients with HIV, given the fact that these individuals were considered to have a much lower life expectancy anyway.
With unprecedented advances in medicine however, prognosis for HIV-positive people has been significantly improved, and that’s how the HOPE Act first came about.
After having been unanimously voted by the Senate on June 17, 2013 and having been passed by the United States House of Representatives as well, the bill eventually became a law on November 21, 2013, when it was signed by President Barack Obama.
Now it appears that HIV-positive organ transplants will finally take place in the United States, given that John Hopkins Hospital executives have been taking steps to harness the potential of the newly approved HIV Organ Policy Equity Act.
The academic medical center based in Baltimore, Maryland, obtained all the necessary permits from the United Network for Organ Sharing in order to perform such surgeries as soon as possible, and now it’s only a matter of time before a suitable donor-recipient pair is found.
Apparently, HIV organ transplants will begin in the United States with kidney and liver grafts, and the benefits of these new medical procedures will be tremendous.
As explained by Dr. Dorry Segev, abdominal transplant surgeon and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins, before the HIV Organ Policy Equality Act was signed, between 500 and 600 organs that could’ve been donated by HIV-positive patients were banned from being used on a yearly basis.
Now that HIV-positive organs will finally be transplanted to other HIV-positive patients, it is predicted that over 1,000 people will get a new lease on life.
Initially, the organs that will be transplanted will come from deceased donors, but gradually, provided that research shows that HIV-positive patients can safely donate organs while they ‘re alive without experiencing complications or side effects, living donors will also be included.
While individuals who have contracted the HIV virus will be able to receive organs from HIV-positive donors, as well as from others who don’t have HIV, it must be noted that it will not be possible for patients without HIV to benefit from organs donated by people who have the human immunodeficiency virus.
However, HIV-positive organ transplants are likely to benefit all the patients enrolled in the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, given the fact that waiting lists which now encompass approximately 122,000 candidates will be significantly reduced as HIV-positive candidates will now have a wider range of potential donors.
Even though some fear that dangerous infections might be transmitted between HIV-positive patients during surgery, or that HIV-positive organs might accidentally reach recipients without the virus, Johns Hopkins representatives insist that no such risks exist given the fact that protocols and regulations are extremely strict and reliable, leaving no room for errors.
In fact, Dr. Dorry Segev believes that organ transplants will be expedited for everyone, occurring at a much more accelerated pace than at any other moment in the last decade, and therefore allowing more and more people to receive the life-saving procedures before it’s too late.
Such hopes are also supported by the fact that kidney transplants between HIV-positive patients have been performed at South Africa’s Groote Schuur Hospital with great results ever since 2010, survival rates for organ recipients being similar to those reported among people without the human immunodeficiency virus.
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