Senate Approves HIV Organ Transplant Bill

The Senate passed the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act (HOPE Act) by unanimous consent on Monday. The HOPE Act, if it becomes law, will strike the current policy that prohibits any use of HIV-positive organs and create a science-based review process to determine whether transplants between HIV-positive donors and positive recipients are safe and effective. The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

Under current U.S. law, it is illegal to use organs from HIV-positive donors for transplantation — or even for medical research. This outdated policy was enacted during the 1980s, amid widespread fear and misunderstanding about HIV/AIDS, and does not reflect modern medical knowledge about the disease. While research has been banned in the United States, South African doctors have successfully transplanted HIV-positive organs into HIV-positive recipients with excellent results.

If the HOPE Act were passed and the Department of Health and Human Services authorized HIV-positive transplants to HIV-positive people, the benefits would be great. Recent controversies surrounding organ transplant policies highlight the scarcity of organs, and having a new pool of donors would save lives. Such a move would provide many of the more than 1.1 million HIV-positive people in the United States with transplants and would shorten wait times for patients without HIV. Additionally, the policy change could save Medicare money by reducing the need for dialysis among patients with kidney failure.

The House version of the bill has bipartisan support, as well as the backing of numerous medical and advocacy organizations.