On Tuesday, the House of Representatives gave final approval to the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act, a bill that will end a 25-year ban on using HIV-positive donors’ organs for any purpose, including medical research. If the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concludes that transplanting organs between HIV-positive Americans is safe and effective under scientific guidelines set by the law, such transplants will then become legal and it will no longer be a crime for HIV-positive Americans to donate their organs. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law.
The scientific community has long argued that the ban on organ donations between HIV-positive people — and even research using their organs — is an outdated relic from a time when many people were confused and scared about HIV/AIDS. When Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) first introduced the HOPE Act in the Senate, Coburn (himself a physician) noted, “Our scientific understanding of AIDS is much better than when this research ban was established.”
“Those infected with HIV are now living much longer and, as a consequence, are suffering more kidney and liver failures. If research shows positive results, HIV positive patients will have an increased pool of donors,” he added.
Allowing organ transplants between HIV-positive individuals could be a boon to the more than 1.1 million Americans living with HIV. It could also help the 70,000 Americans on transplant lists who don’t get their needed organs every year by widening the pool of organ donors available to HIV-positive Americans who may need a liver, kidney, or heart transplant.