HIV and Organ Transplants

The ban on transplanting HIV-infected organs could be lifted for HIV-positive patients

The waiting list for organ donation can be long, very long. That might explain why those on the list who are HIV-positive have asked to accept organs that are also infected with the virus. The New York Times reports that there’s a campaign that would allow organs from HIV-positive donors to be used in HIV-positive patients experiencing organ failure.

The trouble is that the National Organ Transplant Act says its illegal to transplant organs from HIV-positive donors – even if the recipient is also HIV-positive. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected to issue new guidelines, especially after successful HIV-positive transplants have been conducted in South Africa.

For someone like David Aldridge – the news is promising. After having a kidney transplant five years ago, says The Times, the HIV-positive L.A. resident is suffering from kidney damage from either the virus or the medications that have kept him from experiencing complications from the disease.

According to a new study, “500 to 600 HIV-infected livers and kidneys would become available each year if the law were changed,” reports The Times.

Many HIV and AIDS organizations are calling for the ban to be lifted – not only to allow HIV-positive patients to have access to a bigger pool of potential matches – but so other organs could be freed up for everyone in need.

But a concern among medical professionals is the impact of transplanting an HIV-infected organ of a tougher strain into someone with a lesser strain could have. “Doctors say this and other risks could probably be managed by screening out the sickest donors and recipients,” the article says.

For patients like Aldridge, the risks could be worth it.