The New Waiting List
by Jacob Hummer
Just recently, Johns Hopkins University, a private college in Baltimore, Maryland, announced plans to perform H.I.V.-positive transplants. These transplants are the first of their kind in the United States as transplants regarding H.I.V.-positive patients has been restricted, forcing doctors to throw out H.I.V.-positive donors’ organs. This restriction comes from a ban on organ transplant passed in 1988. In 2013, the H.I.V. Organ Policy Equity, or HOPE, Act was passed, removing this restriction.
In 2014, over 120,000 patients were waiting for donor organs, but only approximately one in four actually received these organs. This shortage of organs for patients in need is detrimental to the patients’ lives as they need these organs to survive. H.I.V.-positive patients are the demographic that gets hurt the most by this shortage. Because of this disease, their health deteriorates at an accelerated rate and they often die while waiting for a donor organ or are unable to receive organ donations.
The HOPE Act was inspired by recent H.I.V.-organ positive organ donations that proved to be successful in Africa. These transplants showed that both, H.I.V.-negative patients to H.I.V.-positive patients and H.I.V.-positive patients to H.I.V.-positive patients. In Africa, H.I.V.-positive kidney transplants have saved the lives of patients with H.I.V. in need of new organs.
A study done by the University of Pennsylvania puts the number of possible H.I.V.-positive organ donors at around 400. With these organs available, the lives of nearly 1000 H.I.V.-positive patients or more may be saved through organ transplants.
Though their approval came two years after the H.I.V. Organ Policy Equity Act, Johns Hopkins University already plans on breaking into new territory by performing not only H.I.V.-positive kidney transplants, but H.I.V.-positive liver transplants as well. This liver transplant will be first in the world. The reason these organ donations took so long to actually be approved following the passing of the HOPE Act because the National Institutes of Health needed to make requirements for the patients and donors, since not many transplants with H.I.V.-positive patients or donors.
Doctor Dorry Segev, associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, says the primary donors for H.I.V.-positive transplant organs are going to be those who have already passed. It is currently unknown whether a patient living with H.I.V. may live without one of their kidneys, so without doing the research, only deceased H.I.V.-positive patients may become organ donors. Doctor Segev says people with H.I.V. will be glad to know that their organs could be used to extend other’s lives who are in a similar situation.
This new addition of H.I.V. organs for patients with H.I.V. moves many patients with end-stage organ problems forward on the waiting list for organs. Thousands of lives with H.I.V. could now be saved with the organ donations that Johns Hopkins University has set forth to do.