A New Lease on Life?

The CDC is considering lifting a ban on HIV-infected organ transplants for HIV-positive patients.

Posted: 04/13/2011 05:10 PM EDT

Thanks to advancements in medicine, people with HIV/AIDS are living longer. But for those that require a donated organ, the situation continues to be dire. Some people living with HIV find themselves requiring a new kidney due to the side-effects of their retroviral medication. Until recently, people living with HIV weren't placed on the donor list because it was believed they couldn't survive the transplant.

The CDC has begun to consider lifting the ban on accepting HIV-infected organs, potentially creating a fast track for HIV patients. According to The New York Times, approximately 500 to 600 life-saving kidneys could be obtained. But is it safe? How do we know that doctors won't transplant an organ from an HIV-positive donor into the wrong person? The case of the patient who contracted AIDS from a kidney transplant is still fresh in many people's minds.

Although it was an unsettling case, it's also an isolated one. Organs now undergo rigourous testing before being approved for donation. To further alleviate fears, doctors have recommended removing the sickest patients from the donor pool. If the ban was lifted and the HIV organs were transplanted, it could potentially free up a healthy organ for a non-infected person.

While it's a step in the right direction to allow HIV patients to receive organs, they still have the donor waiting list to contend with. On average, 18 people a day die waiting for the life-saving call. With their compromised immune systems, HIV-positive patients are more likely to die on the waiting list unless someone comes up with a solution.

If the ban is removed, doctors wouldn't start transplanting organs right away. It would take years of clinical trials before the procedure would be approved for widespread medical use.

Do you agree with lifting the ban on HIV-positive organs? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

 

(Photo: Baum/MCT /Landov)

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