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First HIV-Positive Kidney Transplant in Georgia

The Big Idea

By Janet Christenbury

kidneyTransplanting an organ from a donor with HIV—even if the recipient was HIV-positive—used to be illegal. But no longer.

The Emory Transplant Center recently performed a kidney transplant from a deceased HIV-positive donor to an HIV-positive recipient—the first such procedure to occur in the state, made possible by the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act.

Emory is one of eight centers participating in the HOPE in Action clinical trial. Researchers are evaluating the safety of solid organ transplants from HIV-positive deceased donors to HIV-positive recipients.

After being on the wait list for more than three years, the patient agreed to receive an HIV-positive kidney, was placed on the HOPE Act wait list, and received a kidney earlier this year at Emory.

Stable HIV-infected adults with end-stage kidney disease who meet specific criteria for organ transplantation will be offered enrollment in the study. Emory is currently enrolling participants for HIV-positive to HIV-positive kidney transplants, with a plan to include liver transplant patients in the future.

“With 120,000 people on the wait list for a kidney transplant, and about 10,000 people living with HIV who are on dialysis, the HOPE Act gives us new opportunities to save more lives, rather than turning down organ donations from HIV-positive donors,” says Nicole Turgeon, associate professor of surgery and principal investigator of the study at Emory. “Patients living with HIV are living longer because their disease is now manageable with antiretroviral therapies. This means we are seeing more HIV-positive patients in need of organ transplants.”

 In 2016, 20 patients at four centers received new organs in the HOPE in Action trial. HIV-positive recipients have similar survival rates, and kidney and liver graft survival rates, as non-HIV-positive recipients.

“We thank this donor and the donor’s family for giving life to others during their time of sorrow, and the excellent work of LifeLink of Georgia that made this transplant possible,” says Turgeon. “We encourage others, with or without HIV, to register to be organ donors and to tell their families of their decision.”

To learn more, go to: donatelifegeorgia.org.

Related Links

"Emory Transplant Center performs its first HIV-positive kidney transplant from HIV-positive deceased donor" (2/14/2017)

Emory Transplant Center

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