U.S. begins organ transplants from living donors who have HIV

Henrietta Brewer
March 31, 2019

Many people think 'somebody with HIV is supposed to look sick, ' Martinez, 35, told The Associated Press before Monday's operation.

Thirty-five-year-old Martinez said she was "feeling good". Other people living with HIV before me participated in clinical research so that I could not just survive but thrive.

Johns Hopkins Medicine was the first to perform the initial HIV-to-HIV transplant from a deceased donor in the U.S.in 2016. The recipient is expected to be discharged from the hospital in the next couple of days.

"Here's a disease that in the past was a death sentence and now has been so well controlled that it offers people with that disease an opportunity to save somebody else", Dr. Dorry Segev, a Hopkins surgeon, told the Associated Press.

Hopkins' Segev said Monday's kidney transplant was a world first. "Every successful transplant shortens the waitlist for all patients, no matter their HIV status".

"We saw there were people on the transplant list who had HIV who were dying, and at the same time we were unable to use organs from donors who had HIV", Segev explained during the media briefing. A multidisciplinary team from Johns Hopkins Medicine completed the living donor HIV-to-HIV kidney transplant on March 25.

Organs have been transplanted from an HIV-positive cadaver to an HIV-positive patient; however, HIV is known to cause kidney disease, so people living with HIV have not previously been able to donate kidneys. One question is whether receiving an organ from someone with a different strain of HIV than their own poses any risks, but so far there have been no safety problems, said UNOS chief medical officer Dr. David Klassen.

Nina Martinez traveled from Atalanta to Maryland and was wheeled into operating room Johns Hopkins Hospital, Maryland in US on Monday, March 22, to make a difference in someone's life.

People with HIV were historically discouraged from donating a kidney due to the concern their remaining kidney would be damaged by HIV or the medications used to treat it.

However, Hopkins researchers reported in a 2017 study that healthy HIV-positive people weren't actually at a significantly higher risk of developing kidney disease when compared to unhealthy HIV-negative people, like heavy smokers or drinkers.

Johns Hopkins received approval for the live donor HIV-to-HIV kidney transplant in January 2018. The recipient will no longer have to undergo dialysis for the first time in a year. I bore witness to my friend providing a lifesaving transplant, and in watching her I knew that if there was a way for me to help someone else, I had to do it. "That helps everybody on the list". This medicinal breakthrough has opened avenues for transplant of other organs from HIV positive donors to HIV positive recipients. "People were waiting for the first one to happen and to see that it's safe to do".

In his recent State of the Union, U.S. President Donald Trump emphasized the need to eliminate HIV transmissions in the country by 2030.

Martinez, a public health consultant, became interested in living donation even before HIV-to-HIV transplants began. Then last summer she learned that an HIV-positive friend needed a transplant, and tracked down Segev to ask if she could donate. Martinez, while grieving her friend, decided she was still willing to donate, now to a person she would not know-an anonymous recipient. Surgeons had been waiting to find compatible patients.

"We had to show that certain people with HIV could be healthy enough to be a kidney donor and to live with only one kidney".

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