HIV Positive Organ Donors?
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HIV Positive Organ Donors?

Annually, many people die wating for an appropriate donor organ. Perhaps allowing HIV positive people to donate their organs to people suffering from the same condition can shorten waiting lists for everyone.

HIV Organs

Annually, hundreds of HIV patients are on the waiting list for donor organs, and this number steadily increasing. The reason for his, is that HIV medication is turning the auto-immune disease more and more into a chronic condition. On top of this, the required medication to deal with the condition, can damage the organs of HIV positive people. Just like in other patients, these people often have to wait years before receiving a new organ, sometimes dying before a suitable one becomes available.

This is why scientists have recently proposed an adjustment in the National Organ Transplant Act, a law stemming from 1984, that states that people who have tested positive for HIV cannot donate organs after their death.

According to the researchers, this law was rooted in the ignorance of what exactly caused HIV. Now, it is known that HIV positives can live without problem with a donor organ received from another person afflicted with the same condition. If the law could be adjusted, over 500 people could be provided with a new organ annually in the U.S. alone. Another beneficial consequence of allowing this, is that it would also shorten the organ donor waiting list for people without HIV.

Wrong Organ?

The danger that people without HIV would receive ‘infected’ organs is very small, according to the researchers. For example, people with hepatitis C can already donate their organs to people suffering from the same condition, and thanks to the necessary safety measures, this is able to happen without any mentionable issues. There is no reason to think that this would be any different in dealing with organs from HIV infected people. In fact, South African physicians have already started doing transplants with organs from HIV positive people, with great results.

Of course, there are some concerns that need to be addressed. The organ, first of all, has to be healthy enough to be transplanted (HIV medication can damage organs), and there is a minimal risk of infecting the patient with a more aggressive strain of the virus. Nevertheless, according to the researchers, these risks are small and cannot compete with the huge benefit of the resulting shorter donor organ waiting lists for everyone.


  • Boyarsky, B.J.; Hall, E.C.; Singer, A.L.; Montgomery, R.A.; Gebo, K.A. & Segev, D.L. (2011). Estimating the Potential Pool of HIV-Infected Deceased Organ Donors in the United States. American Journal of Transplantation, 11. Doi: 10.1111/j.1600-6143.2011.03506.x
  • John Hopkins Medicine, New and Publications. (03/30/2011) Could HIV-infected Organs Save Lives? (

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Comments (4)

Interesting article on the possible implications of this.

Well presented with lots of info about HIV donors. Promoted since I am out of votes.

Ranked #25 in Immune System

very interesting and good news for these people

Well done. I enjoyed reading it.