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Bipartisan Group Introduces Bill to End Ban on HIV Organ Donation

by Sergio N. Candido
Friday Feb 22, 2013

A group made of Republican and Democratic senators has introduced a bill on February 14 that if passed, could lift the longtime ban on organ donation research for people with HIV.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) introduced the bill, called the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, according to HIV Plus Magazine. They count with the support of a number of other senators, including Tammy Baldwin, the first openly lesbian senator elected to office in the U.S.

The bill will be introduced in the House by Rep. Lois Capps.

As a 1988 law states, it is illegal to transfer organs from one HIV-positive person to another one, or even to conduct research on the subject.

"If the research demonstrates that transplants from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients can be safely and successfully completed, the HHS Secretary would then authorize the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network to establish safe procedures to begin such transplantations," HIV Plus writes.

The introduction of the bill comes after nearly a two-year battle from activists and legislators to get it to be discussed in the House and the Senate.

Some fear the HIV-infected organs could be transplanted to people who do not have the virus by mistake. A 2011 New York Times article lists two different instances in the U.S. in the last seven years where at least five recipients contracted HIV through erroneous transplants.

Rep. Coburn, who happens to be a medical doctor, said the timing for introducing the bill seems right.

"Our scientific understanding of AIDS is much better than when this research ban was established," he said in a statement. "Those infected with HIV are now living much longer and, as a consequence, are suffering more kidney and liver failures. If research shows positive results, HIV-positive patients will have an increased pool of donors."

The only known transplants between two HIV-positive people took place in South Africa in 2010 and were successful.

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