Johns Hopkins University surgeons perform first U.S. organ transplant between HIV positive patients

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WASHINGTON — Surgeons in Baltimore for the first time have transplanted organs between an HIV-positive donor and HIV-positive recipients, a long-awaited new option for patients with the AIDS virus whose kidneys or livers also are failing.

Johns Hopkins University announced Wednesday that both recipients are recovering well after one received a kidney and the other a liver from a deceased donor — organs that ordinarily would have been thrown away because of the HIV infection.

Doctors in South Africa have reported successfully transplanting HIV-positive kidneys but Hopkins said the HIV-positive liver transplant is the first worldwide.

Hopkins didn’t identify its patients, but said the kidney recipient is recuperating at home and the liver recipient is expected to be discharged soon.

“This could mean a new chance at life,” said Dr. Dorry Segev, a Hopkins transplant specialist who pushed for legislation lifting a 25-year U.S. ban on the approach and estimates that hundreds of HIV-positive patients may benefit.

For patients who don’t already have the AIDS virus, nothing changes — they wouldn’t be offered HIV-positive organs.

Instead, the surgeries, performed earlier this month, are part of research to determine if HIV-to-HIV transplants really help.

The reason: Modern anti-AIDS medications have turned HIV from a quick killer into a chronic disease — meaning patients may live long enough to suffer organ failure, either because of the HIV or for some other reason.

 

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