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Doctors report groundbreaking HIV-to-HIV organ transplants

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Staff writer ▼ | April 1, 2016
Trailblazing liver and kidney transplants from an HIV-positive donor to HIV-positive recipients were announced Wednesday by surgeons at Johns Hopkins University.
Saving lives   The HIV Organ Policy Equity Act
"A couple of weeks ago, we performed the first HIV-to-HIV liver transplant in the world and the first HIV-to-HIV kidney transplant in the United States," Dr. Dorry Segev said during a midday media briefing.

Before 2013 and passage of the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, this kind of medical advance would not have been possible, because it was illegal for HIV-positive patients to donate organs in the United States.

The act allows HIV-positive donors to donate organs to patients infected with the AIDS-causing virus, Segev said.

Until the law was changed, thousands of patients with HIV in need of organ transplants often risked death while waiting for a donated organ, he said.

At the same time, "we were throwing away organs from donors infected with HIV just because they were infected. These were potentially good organs," said Segev, a professor of surgery and director of the epidemiology research group in organ transplantation at the Baltimore-based medical school.

Dr. Christine Durand, an assistant professor of medicine and oncology at Hopkins, said the transplant operations went well and both patients are doing "extremely well."

The patient who received the kidney has already gone home, and the liver transplant patient is expected to leave the hospital in a couple of weeks, she said.

Both the liver and kidney came from a deceased HIV-infected donor, the doctors said.

Now that HIV can be controlled with medications, there's no reason why donor organs from HIV-positive people can't be used for HIV-positive patients in need of transplants, Segev said.

According to Segev, approximately 122,000 people are on transplant waiting lists in the United States at any time. Each year, about 500 to 600 potential organ donors who are HIV-positive die, he said.