It has been twenty-five years since an amendment to the National Organ Transplant Act made it illegal for HIV+ Americans to get organ transplants from HIV+ donors, and all research into doing so was also made illegal. A bipartisan group of Senators, however, hope to reverse this. They are being lead by Senator Barbara Boxer of California and Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
They have introduced the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act in order to “‘establish a regular review process in which the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary would evaluate the progress of medical research’ into organ transplants between two HIV-positive people, with the eventual goal of eliminating the ban on such procedures entirely.”
According to Coburn, who is a physician, the ban was put into place back in 1988 due to a poor understanding of the disease. Coburn stated that “Our scientific understanding of AIDS is much better than when this research ban was established. Those infected with HIV are now living much longer and, as a consequence, are suffering more kidney and liver failures. If research shows positive results, HIV positive patients will have an increased pool of donors.”
There is no ban on HIV+ patients from getting donors without the virus, and there has been a rise in the number of successful transplants to people with the disease. The new push to end the ban also comes as the FDA approved a new once-a-day HIV treatment that has increased the life expectancy for those with the virus.
Boxer stated that “With so many lives at stake, it is time to end this outdated ban on research into organ donations between HIV-positive individuals,” Boxer said in the release.
Representative Lois Capps of California, who is a registered nurse, has also introduced the bill into the House.
Lifting the ban on the transplantation of HIV+ organs would greatly increase the number of HIV- organs available to those who do not have the virus.