Wednesday, June 19, 2013


U.S. federal law currently prohibits the transplantation of organs from HIV positive donors - a hold over from an early stage in the HIV era. But today many believe that cautious exploration of the safety of using HIV +ve donor organs for HIV +ve recipients may be a reasonable strategy to expansion of the critically limited organ donor pool. Similar approachs are used (with informed consent from the recipients) for patients and donors infected with the hepatitis B and C viruses, with favorable outcomes.  There was therefore substantial cause for preliminary celebration on June 17, 2013 when the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the HIV Organ Policy Act (HOPE Act; S. 330).

This legislation directs the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) to develop and institute standards for the use of HIV positive organs in HIV positive recipients if ongoing research warrants. The Secretary of DHHS is also directed to : (1) review annually the results of scientific research in conjunction with the Network to determine whether they warrant revision of quality standards relating to donated HIV-infected organs and to the safety of cross-strain transplantation; and the Network, if the review so warrants, is directed to revise its standards in a way that ensures the changes will not reduce the safety of organ transplantation.

This legislation has been referred back to the House of Representatives and is now in the House Committee on 1) the Judiciary and 2) Energy and Commerce.  It was initially introduced by Representative Lois Capps (California) as H.R. 698 and now has 30 co-sponsors. Why not check to see whether your Representative has yet joined as a co-sponsor? If not, call or e-mail his/her office or website to indicate your support. This bill does have bipartisan and bicameral (both houses of Congress) support. Let's help stimulate our politicians to take a logical step forward to solve the organ shortage, even if it is a small one. Every bit helps.