President Barack Obama signed a bill into law that will allow researchers to look into the benefits of transplanting organs between HIV-positive patients.
The HOPE Act, which was signed on Thursday, directs the federal health department to develop and institute standards for conducting such research. It also permits the health secretary to allow such transplants if the research results warrant a change. The safety of the organ transplant process also must be protected.
Obama says the HOPE Act is an important step because it will help improve medical care for people living with HIV.
Since 1984, HIV-positive organs are not allowed to be transplanted in the U.S.
The American Society of Transplantation (AST) supported the new law, and said in an earlier press release that it may potentially make more organs available for the more than 118,000 people currently on the wait list.
“The HOPE Act is a common sense policy proposal that will improve the lives of many patients in need of organ transplants,” Dr. Dan Salomon, president of the AST, said. “The nation's transplant community is grateful that the House of Representatives and Senate have now both passed this vital legislation. The AST and its thousands of professionals worldwide strongly support this legislative proposal allowing for greater use of life saving donor organs and much needed research in the area of HIV organ donation and transplantation."
He added that he was pleased that the law got bipartisan support.
Advocacy groups note that, like other Americans, HIV-positive people are living longer. The groups also note that the number of people waiting for organs far exceeds the number of organs available for transplant.
The Human Rights Campaign, a non-profit group that supported the law, said that allowing HIV-positive people to donate organs to other people with the same illness may save up to 1,000 HIV-infected patients who are suffering from liver and kidney failure. It could also shorten the waiting list for non-infected patients.