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Could HIV-infected organs save lives?
Date:3/30/2011

If Congress reversed its ban on allowing people with HIV to be organ donors after their death, roughly 500 HIV-positive patients with kidney or liver failure each year could get transplants within months, rather than the years they currently wait on the list, new Johns Hopkins research suggests.

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

Not only would HIV-positive transplant candidates get organs sooner if such transplants were legalized, Segev says, but by transplanting those patients and moving them off the waiting list, the time to transplant would be shorter for non-HIV-infected patients.

The ban on organ donation by HIV-positive patients is a relic of the 1980s, when it was still unclear what caused AIDS, at the time a devastating new epidemic sweeping the United States. Congress put the ban into the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 and it has never been updated, despite the fact that HIV is no longer an immediate death sentence but a chronic disease managed with medication.

The number of HIV-positive patients receiving kidney or liver transplants with non-HIV-infected organs is on the rise as doctors become more comfortable with the idea, and patients are having good outcomes, Segev says. In 2009, more than 100 HIV-positive patients got new kidneys and 29 got new livers. HIV-infected patients may encounter accelerated rates of liver and kidney disease due in part to the toxic effects of antiretroviral therapy, the medications that keep HIV at bay.

Segev and his colleagues set out in their study, publ
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Contact: Stephanie Desmon
sdesmon1@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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