Have you heard about the film Seven Pounds with Will Smith? It’s one of the best movies I ever watched and I definitely recommend it. It tells the story of a guy who decided to donate his vital organs to people who terminally needed them.
If you were one of those patients, he’d save your life but what if he had HIV? Have you ever thought what happens in terms of infected organ donation?
After nearly a million AIDS related deaths last year and around 35 million people currently living with HIV, this is a matter to take seriously, especially considering that many HIV+ patients also have hepatitis C and will most likely need a liver transplant at some point.
Up until now, doctors in US weren’t allowed to use unhealthy organs for transplantation but three days ago, a legislation to change this rule, under the name of HIV Organ Policy Equity Act has been approved by the White House after passing the Senate and is now on its way to the president for final approval, according to an article in Nature.
These transplantations can save thousands of lives but there could be several complications that could arise so there is still a lot of research to be done in this case.
Firstly, the organs would only be transplanted from HIV positive to positive. According to the united network of organ sharing, around 121,000 patients in US are on the waiting list for receiving an organ and many of them are HIV positive so that would mean this bill would allow 500 to 600 additional organ donations per year, as estimated by the American Journal of Transplantation.
The problem here is that there are few different strains of HIV so if the organ donor has a strain that is resistant to drugs or doesn’t match the receiver’s strain there is a possibility that it could “superinfect” the patient.
There could also be long term downsides to these transplants. An organ that adapted well in the beginning could end up rejecting the body one or even three years later.
Nevertheless, Elmi Muller from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, one of the most HIV infected countries in the world, has performed 26 positive-to-positive transplants since 2008 and only two of them failed.
As a conclusion, this advance in science could mean that there would be an increase in possibilities for HIV infected people to survive but there is still a lot of research to be done and if this bill comes signed into law, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network will have the task to design a set of guidelines to make sure these transplants are safe.
Let’s hope for the best. We’ll probably never get to understand how tough it must be to waiting for “the call of life” until we are in that situation so – once again – please, think ahead.