June 29, 2012
AIDS United joined HIV Medicine Association, amfAR, Human Rights Campaign, and Treatment Action Group in co-sponsoring a congressional briefing on increasing organ donation. The briefing focused on discussion of the importance of repealing the 1988 ban on transplanting organs from HIV positive donors to benefit HIV positive recipients. Under a 1988 amendment to the federal law reauthorizing the National Organ Transplant Act (PL 98-507), organ transplants from HIV-positive people were barred. One of the speakers estimated that as many as 500 HIV positive deceased individual's viable organs are discarded annually. HIV is the only disease that is congressionally barred from transplantation. All other diseases are screened by United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) prior to transplantation.
Rep. Capps (D-CA) spoke at the briefing and told the audience that she, Sen. Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. Coburn (R-OK) are planning to introduce legislation to overturn the ban. Rep. Capps (formerly a school nurse) believes the advances in HIV treatment and care as well as advances in organ donation transplants makes this an excellent time to repeal this outdated law.
The panelists explained that with the advances in HIV treatment and care many HIV positive individuals die from diseases unrelated to their HIV and would truly benefit from being able to receive organs from an HIV positive organ donor. The majority of the organ transplants performed in the country are kidney and liver transplants, so there are numerous people on dialysis and waiting in hospitals for an organ to become available. Repeal of this law would give HIV positive individuals another alternative.
These donations would only go from HIV positive deceased organ donors to HIV positive individuals. It is not felt at this time that a living HIV positive individual should donate their organs to another individual since they may need their second kidney after kidney failure themselves later down the road.
Transplants have already occurred to HIV positive individuals from HIV negative individuals and in many cases the HIV positive individual has lived a long fruitful life after the transplant. Thomas Lane an HIV positive man spoke to the quality of life he now has after he received two separate kidney transplants.
Additional background materials are listed below.