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HIV-infected organs successfully transplanted in the U.S.

By Ashleigh Bones     Apr 4, 2016 in Health
Members of a Johns Hopkins Medicine team have performed a landmark surgery, successfully transplanting a kidney and liver from an HIV-positive donor to two HIV-positive recipients.
How do we give HIV-infected patients an opportunity to a longer life? The surgeons at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center have found a way. For the first time in the U.S., surgeons have transplanted a kidney and liver from a dead donor who was HIV-positive, and put them into two HIV-positive recipients.
With roughly 122,000 people on the transplant waiting list in the country at any given time, this advancement in medical history will now give doctors the chance to utilize organs of 1,000 additional donors a year.
“This is an unbelievably exciting day for our hospital and our team, but more importantly for patients living with both HIV and end-stage organ disease. For these individuals, this could mean a new chance at life,” says Dr. Dorry L. Segev, lead surgeon and professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Segev and his team are working to ensure that their patients stay as healthy as possible. Out of the two that underwent surgery, the patient that received the kidney, 30 years after contracting HIV, is already home, while the other patient that received the liver after being HIV-positive for 25 years, remains in the hospital, but is “functioning extremely well,” according to Dr. Christine Durand, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins.
The team at John Hopkins hoped to follow through with the surgery six years ago after realizing the amount of people that were dying while waiting for an organ donor. However, they were forbidden from acting on the plans, as back in 1988, the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) made it illegal for HIV patients to donate organs.
The surgeries were finally made possible following the recent approval of the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act of 2013 by the United Network for Organ Sharing, which lifted NOTA’s ban. For the first time since the AIDS outbreak in the 1980s, advances in antiretroviral drugs have lessened the toll of the symptoms of people suffering from the disease — although, research found that the drugs often causes liver and kidney failure.
Unsurprisingly, the medical team at Johns Hopkins has their hands full, as the waiting list for the transplants have grown tremendously since the success of the experiment. Surgeons have developed techniques and protocols to make sure that the HIV virus doesn’t spread to the medical team, and they’re hoping to continue the surgeries in an effort to save the 500 to 600 HIV-positive patients that need an organ donor.
Although this may seem to only be beneficial to HIV-positive candidates, physicians are hoping that there will be a reduced wait time for all transplant patients. Moreover, this milestone could lead to similar surgeries for patients infected with other diseases, such as hepatitis C.
More about HIV, AID, Aids, Organs, Donor
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