It’s not every day that health responses in the United States get a chance to catch up to care available in South Africa. Then again, it’s not every day that Congress acts quickly in a bipartisan response to this country’s ongoing healthcare shortfalls and HIV crisis. For those reasons and more, American clinicians and researchers are applauding the passage Tuesday evening of the HIV Organ and Policy Equity Act — the HOPE Act — which will allow research on organ donation from HIV-infected donors who have died, to HIV-infected recipients. The legislation, S. 330 was introduced by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), a physician, in February and passed the Senate in June. The legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), a registered nurse, with support from lead co-sponsors Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) and Michael Burgess (R-TX). Sen.Boxer cited a study showing that allowing organ transplants between HIV-positive patients could increase the organ donation pool by 500-600 donors a year.
The legislation is just a step in making organs from HIV-infected deceased donors available to patients who need them. Transplants from HIV-positive donors, as well as research necessary to explore the feasibility of transplanting organs from HIV-infected deceased donors to save the lives of recipients living with HIV has been banned by federal law since the 1980s. Doctors in South Africa, on the other hand, carried out the first organ transplants from HIV-infected deceased donors to HIV-infected recipients in 2008, with four kidney transplants in 2008 and have continued to transplant organs to HIV-infected patients since 2010.