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Nation's first HIV-positive to HIV-positive transplant to be performed at Johns Hopkins

Posted at 4:17 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-10 10:32:59-05

The nation's first HIV-positive to HIV-positive organ donation will take place at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Until the HOPE Act passed in 2013, doctors could not use HIV-positive organs, even to help HIV-patients. The National Institutes of Health spent the last few years creating safeguards, before giving the go-ahead.

Dr. Phil Gauthier, Medical Director of Transplant at Porter Adventist Hospital, says the approval is long overdue.

"Now that patients are living so much longer with these great new medications, they're getting kidney failure for the same reasons the rest of the populations do, including old age, diabetes, high blood pressure, things like that," said Gauthier.

Studies estimate up to 600 HIV-positive people would donate their organs every year, saving more than 1,000 lives.

While the benefits are obvious for HIV-positive patients, doctors say others waiting on organ donation lists will benefit, too.

"It will also help non-HIV patients because we'll be using more kidneys in general, so other kidneys will be used for non-HIV patients, and their wait times will go down," said Gauthier.

It's not clear when the first HIV-positive to HIV-positive transplant will happen. But, now Johns Hopkins staff can search for organ donors and recipients that match.

"It's only going to take off even more," said Gauthier.