Senate Passes Bill to Allow HIV Organ Donations

The Senate in June passed a bill that would reverse a decades-old ban and allow research on organ donations from HIV-positive individuals.

The bill (S 330) could pave the way for organs from HIV-positive donors to be transplanted into patients who are also HIV-positive and ultimately free up organs for other individuals. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act in February. A related House bill (HR 698) awaits committee action.

“The passage of the HOPE act is wonderful news,” said Michelle Josephson, MD, of the University of Chicago section of nephrology. “The ban on using organs from individuals infected with HIV was put in place years ago, prior to the availability of drugs that effectively treat HIV. We now know that patients who have been infected with HIV can be managed with antiretroviral drugs and benefit from kidney transplantation.”

Under the HOPE Act, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would routinely evaluate the progress of medical research into possible health risks for people with HIV who receive organ transplants from HIV-positive donors. If research demonstrates that transplants from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients can be safely and successfully performed, HHS could direct the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network to establish procedures to begin such transplantations. A study published in the American Journal of Transplantation found that allowing organ transplants from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients could increase the organ donation pool by 500-600 donors a year and save hundreds of lives.

“The HOPE Act is significant because it provides more kidneys for the donation pool,” said Thomas Hostetter, of the division of nephrology at the Case Western Reserve University Department of Medicine. “Even though we now know that people infected with HIV disease benefit from a kidney transplant, like everyone else with end stage kidney disease, unless these individuals have a living donor they wait for years on the waitlist. The waitlist for a deceased donor kidney is many years because there is a large gap between supply of available organs and the number of people waiting for a kidney transplant. This Act will help close that gap.”

“Thanks and credit go to the individuals and organizations, including ASN, that supported and lobbied for passage of the Act,” Josephson said. “The Act benefits all of our end stage kidney patients needing a kidney transplant and gives the doctors more tools and strategies with which to help their patients.”]

July 2013 (Vol. 5, Number 7)