Senate HELP Committee Approves Bill to Increase Access to Organ Transplants
March 21, 2013 by Andrea Levario, Senior Public Policy Advocate
Yesterday afternoon, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act by voice vote. This important bill, which we told you about last month, would increase the number of healthy organs available for transplantation to people living with HIV and AIDS. Since it was introduced on National Organ Donor Day (Valentine’s Day) by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tom Coburn, M.D., (R-OK), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Rand Paul, M.D. (R-KY), the bill has continued to garner a strong bipartisan group of supporters, including Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Richard Burr (R-NC).
With more than 100,000 patients actively waiting for life-saving organs and about 50,000 more are added annually, seeking safe options to expand the pool organs available for transplantation makes sense. This is just what the HOPE Act does. It removes the federal ban on the donation of HIV-positive organs to HIV-positive recipients, making it possible for researchers to study the safety of such procedures. If successful, it would increase the number of healthy organs available for transplantation in people living with HIV and AIDS, and reduce the wait time for all organ recipients.
Thanks to advances in science we know volumes more about the HIV than in 1988 when the ban was enacted. Knowledge about the virus has aided in developing drugs that have turned a fatal condition into one that can be managed. While living longer is a clear benefit of the drugs, conditions associated with aging, such as organ failure, may follow. Permitting organs from deceased, HIV-positive donors to be used has the potential to save 1,000 HIV-infected patients with liver and kidney failure each year.
The next step for the HOPE Act is consideration by the full Senate. The bill’s sponsors are hopeful that can happen in the near future. Over in the House, the bill (HR 698) also has bipartisan sponsorship with Reps. Lois Capps, R.N. (D-CA) and Andy Harris, M.D., (R-MD). They are pushing for a hearing before the Energy and Commerce Committee.
HRC worked closely with Senators Boxer and Coburn on the introduction of the HOPE Act, S. 330, and is a co-leader of the broad coalition including HIV/AIDS organizations, patient advocacy groups, and medical professionals, urging Congress to pass this important legislation. Stay tuned to the blog for further updates.
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