For the first time, organs from an HIV-positive person have been transplanted to HIV-positive patients. This has been a long wait for patients with AIDS who are desperate for replacement kidneys and livers.
Johns Hopkins University announced that the transplant recipients are recovering well. They transplanted a kidney and liver from a deceased HIV-positive donor to two patients with AIDS – organs that would typically be tossed away.
Doctors in South Africa have successfully completed an HIV-positive kidney transplant in the past, but the liver transplant is a world first.
“This could mean a new chance at life,” said Dr. Dorry Segev, a Hopkins transplant specialist. He spearheaded the initiative to push legislation for the U.S. to life the 25-year ban on HIV organ transplants. Now, hundreds of HIV patients and recipients will benefit.
The need for organs from the HIV-positive demographic was urgent. Because of modern anti-AIDS medications, HIV isn’t the efficient killer it once was. It’s more of a slow-acting, chronic disease now, meaning patients live long enough to see their organs fail, either from HIV or another ailment.
This also alleviates the waiting list for regular organ patients; HIV- positive patients would be put on the same list for HIV-negative organs. That list is long — for kidneys, more than 100,000 people are in line — and thousands die waiting each year.
Segev estimates 300-500 HIV-positive would-be donors die each year, which could potentially equate to 1,000 additional transplants of kidneys and livers.
“It increases the pool of potential organ donors and allows more people to be transplanted. That’s the advantage of this whole thing, but it is a research project so we are going to monitor it very carefully,” said Dr. David Klassen of the United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the nation’s transplant system.