America begins organ transplants from living donors who have HIV


In a massive medical breakthrough, surgeons at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore transplanted a kidney from an HIV-positive donor - Nina Martinez.

In 2016, the team at Johns Hopkins received approval from the United Network for Organ Sharing and successfully conduct the first ever HIV-to-HIV liver transplant and first-in-the-US HIV-to-HIV kidney transplant, using the organs from a dead donor who was HIV-positive.

The surgeons who pioneered the groundbreaking transplant told The Post that they hope this case will help destigmatize HIV and expand the organ donor pool for people living with HIV.

The new milestone could shorten the waiting list for surgery by expanding the list of available organs.

But newer HIV medications are safer and more effective, making the risks associated with these sorts of live donor transplants comparable between people with or without the virus, he added in a statement.

Transplants slowly increased as more evidence proved liver and kidney recipients with HIV survived at rates similar to patients without the virus. "I really wanted to do something to jolt people's perceptions".

Hopkins' Segev said Monday's kidney transplant was a world first.

"There are potentially tens of thousands of people living with HIV right now who could be living kidney donors", said Segev, who has advised some other hospitals considering the approach. And if more people living with HIV wind up donating, it helps more than HIV-positive patients who need a kidney. The recipient will no longer have to undergo dialysis for the first time in a year. She decided she wanted to be a donor after watching a TV drama about the first living kidney donor with HIV.

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Some view the legislation not only as an avenue to advance medicine, but also to challenge how people perceive HIV. "And I can't figure out any better way to show that people like me can bring life", she said ahead of the surgery. Usually when society thinks of people living with HIV, they think to people from the 1980s.

"That's one less person waiting for a limited resource", Desai said.

"I am hoping this leads to a ripple effect", said Durand.

According to UNOS statistic, approximately 113 000 people are on a waiting list to receive an organ.

The premiere imperfect success in heart transplantation was achieved on 3 December 1967 when Christiaan Bernard of Cape Town, South Africa carried out world's premier human to human heart transplant.

Martinez, a public health consultant, became interested in living donation even before HIV-to-HIV transplants began.

Her friend died before Martinez finished the required health tests but she chose to honor him by donating to someone she didn't know. "But I know my late friend would be glad to know that I continued" with the process. One question is whether receiving an organ from someone with a different strain of HIV poses any risks, but so far there have been no safety problems, said UNOS chief medical officer Dr. David Klassen.

She had initially wanted to donate her kidney to a friend, but the friend passed away before she could do so. "I've never been surer of anything".