…And it’s Monday again. Hope everyone’s week if off to a good start. I’m heading to the clinic today for a lecture my supervisor and some of her colleagues are giving on aromatherapy and massage. First, I wanted to share an article that was on the front page of this morning’s New York Times.
Until fairly recently, individuals living with HIV could not get organ transplants. In the past decade, however, as HIV has come to be regarded as a treatable medical condition rather than a death sentence, patients have been put on organ transplant waiting lists with everyone else.
Since 1988, an amendment was made to the National Organ Transplant Act banning the transplantation of organs from HIV-positive individuals. However, as the treatment and perception of HIV have improved over the past 23 years, federal health officials, other experts, and patients are calling for a repeal to the provision.
Back in the 1980’s and 90’s, HIV patients weren’t typically living long enough to suffer liver damage and kidney damage, which the disease and the medications used to treat it can increase risk of.
As quoted in the New York Times, Dr. Dorry Segev, transplant surgery director of clinical research at Johns Hopkins and a co-author of a new study indicating that 500 to 600 HIV-infected livers and kidneys would become available each year if the law were changed, said, “The clock is ticking more quickly for those who are HIV-positive.” Making organs from HIV donors available would not only make it possible to reach more patients before they become too sick to receive a transplant; it would take that many more people off the list of Americans in need of organs.
Health agencies such as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are issuing new guidelines soon that will encourage research involving transplanting HIV-positive organs into HIV-positive people. This would require the transplant ban to be lifted.
Though the only known transplants involving H.I.V-positive donors and recipients have been conducted in South Africa, they have so far been successful.
Of course, there are some risks. It is possible that a patient may receive an organ from a donor with a more aggressive strain of the virus. Another concern is that, while extremely rare, an organ from a donor with HIV may be transplanted into a someone who is not infected. To improve safety, stricter screening and testing measures will be called for.
There also exists the old-fashioned and totally bullsh!t notion that donating an organ to someone with HIV is a “waste.” Yes, there is currently no cure for AIDS or the virus that causes it, but through proper care, people can live a long, relatively normal life with the disease. Improving the quality of a person’s life is not a waste of anything.
Granted, I am very biased on this topic, as most of my nutrition work so far has been with HIV patients, and I personally can’t imagine denying someone access to a treatment that could help them, risks taken into account. I’d be curious to hear other people’s opinions, though, as this is far from a black-and-white issue. You can read more here.