Post submitted by Dave Caldwell, HRC Political InternUS Capitol

Yesterday, the Thanksgiving spirit was evident as President Obama signed the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act into law. The legislation lifts a decades old ban on the use of donated, HIV-positive organs for transplantation, and opens the door for the use of those organs in HIV-positive patients.  The historic change in policy has the potential to shorten wait times and increase access to life-saving organ transplants for hundreds of Americans each year.

The legislation was introduced and moved with the strong bipartisan leadership of Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Rand Paul (R-KY).  The House effort was led by Reps. Lois Capps (D-CA) and Andy Harris (R-MD).  The medical expertise of these and other lawmakers was instrumental in conveying the need for health policy to keep pace with the latest life saving techniques and medical research available and resulted in the measure moving through both chambers without opposition.  

The HOPE Act directs the Department of Health and Human Services to develop and institute standards for research on HIV-positive organ transplantation and allows the Secretary to permit positive-to-positive transplantation if it is determined that the results of research warrant such a change. Standards must also be developed to ensure that positive-to-positive transplantation does not impact the safety of the organ transplantation network.  The law also amends federal criminal law regarding HIV transmission to clarify that such organ donations are not barred.  

HRC served as a co-leader of the broad coalition of HIV/AIDS organizations, patient advocacy groups, and medical professionals that began educating lawmakers in Spring 2012 about the need to remove the antiquated health policy, assisted leaders in both the House and Senate in drafting the legislation, and lobbied lawmakers to pass the legislation. 

Click here to learn more about HIV/AIDS and the LGBT Community.

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