Doctors at Johns Hopkins performed the first U.S. liver and kidney transplants from an HIV-positive donor to HIV-positive recipients, the hospital announced on Wednesday. The ban on HIV-positive organ donations was repealed in 2013. (HIV was the only condition 100 percent banned in the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, when the AIDS epidemic was still in its early stages.)
In a statement, the hospital’s Dr. Dorry Segev explained:
“This opens the doors for so many more of these kind of transplants to happen, so many lives of people with HIV saved by these transplants”.
“A thousand new transplants every year? If we can really reach, that would be a huge increase in the number of transplants,” Dr. Segev said.
“It wasn’t a medical issue,” he told The Baltimore Sun. “It was entirely legal.” Segev and his colleagues repeatedly met with figures on Capitol Hill to try and push through legislation that would overturn the law. “The hardest thing was to get it on their radar,” Segev said Wednesday.
The family of the first HIV-positive kidney and liver donor said she wanted to help. The New England woman, whose name was not released, was a “daughter, mother, auntie, best friend and sister,” according to a statement from her family provided by the New England Organ Bank.
“From early childhood she always stuck up for the underdog,” said the statement. “HIV was not a choice she made, but she fought it for herself and our family every day. As we all know, HIV is a stigma and people with the disease are unfortunately at times treated differently. … She was able to leave this world helping those underdogs she fought so hard for.”
Both recipients wished to remain anonymous, but are doing well, Hopkins said. One has left the hospital and the other is expected to be discharged shortly.