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Organ transplantationPost submitted by Paul Guequierre, HRC Deputy Communications Director

HRC yesterday lauded the introduction of legislation to increase the number of healthy organs available for transplantation to people living with HIV and AIDS, and reduce the wait time for recipients. The bipartisan HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act, sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tom Coburn, M.D., (R-OK), and Rand Paul, M.D. (R-KY), would permit donated, HIV-positive organs to be used for transplantation in HIV-positive patients, a medical procedure currently prohibited by federal law. A companion measure sponsored by Representative Lois Capps (D-CA), was introduced in the House. 

Major advances in the treatment of HIV and AIDS mean that HIV-positive individuals are living longer, and like other older Americans, they too are developing medical conditions that require organ transplant.  However, the number of individuals in need of organ transplants far exceeds the availability of healthy organs; more than 100,000 patients are actively waiting for life-saving organs and about 50,000 more are added annually. 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.  As organs from HIV-infected donors would only be transplanted to HIV-infected transplant candidates, the waiting time for HIV-infected people who accept HIV-infected organs would most certainly decrease, as would  the general waiting list for uninfected people awaiting transplants. 

The HOPE Act directs the Department of Health and Human Services and the Organ Procurement Transplant Network (OPTN) to develop and institute standards for research on HIV-positive organ transplantation and permits the Secretary to permit positive-to-positive transplantation if it is determined that the results of research warrant such a change.  The Secretary would be required to direct OPTN to develop standards to ensure that positive-to-positive transplantation does not impact the safety of the organ transplantation network.

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