Should We Lift Ban on HIV-Positive Organ Donors?

Organs would primarily be used for HIV-positive recipients, say proponents
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2011 9:19 AM CDT
Two organ donor application leaflets are shown in London; the US also has an organ shortage.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – The US has, as one doctor says, a "huge organ shortage"—but there is one way we could make 500 to 600 more livers and kidneys available each year: lift the ban on HIV-positive donors. A controversial move, yes, but some federal health officials and other experts think it's a good idea, the New York Times reports. HIV-positive organs would primarily be given to HIV-positive donors, and "every HIV-infected one we use is a new organ that takes one more person off the list," the doctor says.

Even for HIV-positive recipients, however, there are concerns. "You could have a donor who has a tougher strain of HIV," says one HIV-positive man who will likely need a liver transplant. But doctors say such risks are manageable if the sickest donors and recipients are screened out. South Africa, the only country known to be conducting such transplants, has seen success. In the US, doctors are looking to start with clinical trials and other research. Some experts believe even HIV-negative patients could potentially receive HIV-positive organs, if their risk of liver or kidney failure outweighs the risk of contracting HIV.

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