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Allowing Organ Donation by People With HIV Could Save Lives, Experts Say

FRIDAY, April 1 (HealthDay News) -- About 500 HIV-positive patients a year could get kidney or liver transplants within months instead of years if the U.S. Congress reversed a law that forbids people with HIV from being organ donors after they die, researchers say.

"If this legal ban were lifted, we could potentially provide organ transplants to every single HIV-infected transplant candidate on the waiting list. Instead of discarding the otherwise healthy organs of HIV-infected people when they die, those organs could be available for HIV-positive candidates," senior study author Dr. Dorry L. Segev, an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a Hopkins news release.

Segev and colleagues analyzed data from the Nationwide Inpatient Study and the HIV Research Network to estimate the number of people in the United States who are good potential organ donors except for the fact that they have HIV.

The researchers found similar numbers in each of the data sources: an average of 534 patients a year between 2005 and 2008 in the Nationwide Inpatient Study, and an average of 494 a year between 2000 and 2008 in the HIV Research Network.

The study was released online March 28 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the American Journal of Transplantation.

Legalizing the use of organs from HIV-infected donors would not only benefit HIV-positive people waiting for a transplant, it would move them off the transplant waiting list and shorten waiting times for patients without HIV, Segev noted.

He added that doctors in South Africa have started doing transplants of HIV-infected organs into HIV-infected people and have had excellent results.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about HIV/AIDS.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, March 30, 2011

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