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Johns Hopkins Ready for First HIV-Positive Transplants in US

As soon as the right match becomes available, Johns Hopkins plans to become the first U.S. hospital to perform organ transplants between HIV-positive donors and recipients who have the virus – forging a path that could cut down on those waiting for an organ donation and increase the nation’s transplant rate.

Dr. Dorry Segev, director of the Epidemiology Research Group in Organ Transplantation at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, estimates about 1,000 organs from about 500 viable potential donors with HIV are wasted each year.

“If [these organs are given to HIV-positive patients], it will be the largest increase in transplantation in the last decade,” Segev tells U.S. News.

Patients with HIV already could receive organs from donors without the virus. In 2013, President Barack Obama signed the HIV Organ Policy Equity – or HOPE – Act, which Segev helped draft and made transplants between HIV-positive donors and recipients legal for the first time since 1988.

Such procedures would shorten the waiting list for everyone, Segev says. Right now, there are about 120,000 people in line for a transplant.

The hospital would perform kidney and liver transplants and initially focus on deceased donors, The New York Times reports. It would be the first in the country to perform an HIV-positive kidney transplant; an HIV-positive liver transplant would be the first in the world.

The initiative is seen as a victory in the HIV community, not only because people with the disease will have more medical options, but because they will have a chance to donate as well.

“The idea that my organs could now benefit someone living with HIV? Heck yeah,” Michael Kaplan, president of the AIDS United lobbying group and someone who has been living with AIDS for years, toldthe Times.

Although Johns Hopkins is currently the first and only hospital in the U.S. approved to perform the transplants, Segev says it is working with other hospitals to help them get permissions and protocols in place.

[READ:Many Donor Livers for Sickest Patients Rejected, Study Finds]

Some medical officials reportedly expressed concerns in the past that HIV-related infections could be transmitted through the transplants and that organs from HIV-positive donors could be transplanted to patients without the virus by accident.

But Johns Hopkins has worked for two years to nail down policies with key health organizations to keep the process safe, Segev says.

“While it’s exciting for Hopkins to have achieved this policy victory and to be able to do this innovative work, the real excitement is for the patients who now have the opportunity to have their lives saved,” he says.

Article by: Casey Leins


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