Thanks to the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act of 2013, people living with HIV and in need of an organ transplant have the option of receiving organs from HIV-positive donors who are deceased—though it wasn’t until 2016, that the United States saw its first HIV-positive to HIV-positive organ transplant. The procedure took place at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore and involved a deceased HIV-positive donor.
The transplants are becoming more common. Duke University Health System in Durham, North Carolina, recently performed the first HIV-to-HIV transplant in the Southeast. Stanley Boling, 61, who has been living with HIV for more than 30 years, received a liver transplant from a deceased HIV-positive donor before Christmas 2017 and is doing great.
“I’m not afraid of HIV, so I was willing to be part of [the first transplant at Duke] and to hopefully help future people who go through the same thing,” says Boling in a video the university produced about the procedure (you can watch the video at the top of this article).
“I’m so glad I went through it,” Boling adds. “I’m doing fine.”
“What’s unique here is it’s a new pathway for us to be able to make a transplant available to folks for whom it might have been more challenging,” said Cameron Wolfe, MD, of Duke Health, in the video. But before many more of these transplants take place, he adds, more people with HIV must know that they’re able to donate organs.
Earlier this year, Johns Hopkins performed another first: an HIV-to-HIV transplant involving a living donor. At least three medical centers in the country have been approved to perform such transplants.
These developments are important for the HIV community because people living with the virus and in need of a transplant are more likely to die waiting for an organ than their HIV-negative counterparts. The hope is that these new policies will increase the pool of available organs.
For related information, see this installment of Ask POZ: Can People Living With HIV Be Organ Donors?