February 25, 2013
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) introduced a bill to allow research into organ donation among HIV-infected people, which has been banned since a 1988 law made it illegal to transplant organs from one HIV-infected person to another. The 1988 law also prohibited research into transplants between HIV-infected persons. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) will introduce the bill, the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives.
According to HIV Plus magazine, the bill would allow researchers to determine the safety of organ transplants from HIV-infected donors to HIV-infected recipients. Demonstrated safety would clear the way for the U.S. Health and Human Services Administration to allow the Organ Procurement and Transportation Network to develop "safe procedures" for transplants.
The bill's opponents fear that organs from HIV-infected people could be transplanted by mistake to non-HIV-infected patients, as reported in a 2011 New York Times story that alleged "erroneous transplants" transmitted HIV to as many as five people. However, Coburn, who is also a physician, stated that with greater scientific knowledge, HIV-infected people are now living longer, which increases the need for liver and kidney transplants. The bill's introduction is the culmination of two years of advocacy by lawmakers and HIV activists.
South Africa reported successful transplantations from one HIV-infected person to another in 2010.