Study Reveals 400 Potential HIV-Positive Organ Donors
PHILADELPHIA, May 14 (UPI) — Most people who need an organ transplant never get one, and the number of those who are HIV-positive is even lower. Researchers have estimated that there may be more than 400 potential donors around the country who can help improve the situation for people with HIV.
Despite passage of the HIV Organ Policy Equity, or HOPE, Act lifting a ban on transplanting organs from one HIV-positive patient to another, there have been no such transplants done in the U.S., at least partially because there is already a shortage of organ donors.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania reviewed information on 578 patients who died at six Philadelphia HIV clinics between January 2009 and June 2014, finding that those facilities alone could net two to three kidneys and three to five livers for transplant annually. While not a large amount, when the data is extrapolated out to include clinics across the country, there is the potential to help between 200 and 250 people.
“The findings are significant because there are not enough organ donors in the United States to meet the needs of all of the patients who might benefit from life-saving organ transplants,” said Emily Blumberg, MD, a professor in the division of Infectious Diseases at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, in a press release. “Some of the patients waiting for organs are infected with HIV but never make it to transplant because they either die while waiting or become too sick to be transplanted. HIV patients who undergo transplantation generally do well, so it is important to continue to look for ways to improve access to transplantation for them.”
The National Institutes of Health are currently working on guidelines for such transplants, however policy makers have successful examples in South Africa, where transplants between HIV-positive patients have grown in number. At one hospital, 29 successful transplants have been done and 74 percent of patients survive for at least five years.
While there are concerns about reduced quality of kidneys and livers coming from HIV-positive patients, the potential to extend the lives of recipients is worthwhile. Researchers project that organ recipients stand a roughly 70 percent chance of survival, a 2 percent difference from healthy kidney donors and 10 percent difference from healthy donors.
“The kidney findings may reflect our greater success in treating HIV-infected individuals, who now live longer and thus are more likely to develop problems associated with poorer kidney transplant quality,” said Aaron Richterman, lead author on the study. “The kidney findings may reflect our greater success in treating HIV-infected individuals, who now live longer and thus are more likely to develop problems associated with poorer kidney transplant quality.”
The study was published in the American Journal of Transplantation.