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Obama Signs Bill, HIV Organ Transplant Research to Start

Update Date: Nov 25, 2013 09:38 AM EST

Despite the long and hard journey of waiting on the organ transplant list, the list still brings hope to many of these patients. In order for patients to receive an organ, the donated organ must be a good match, which could take months and years to find. The process of matching patients and organs can be extremely difficult under certain health circumstances. For people afflicted with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), there currently is no organ transplant system. To address this problem, the U.S. President, Barack Obama signed a bill opening research into this particular predicament.

The bill, known as the HOPE Act, will allow researchers to conduct studies in order to find safe ways to receive and transplant organs for HIV-infected patients. With advancements in antiretroviral therapy, HIV patients are living longer. Even though HIV-positive people might be living longer, they still have health ailments that build up over time and might require organ transplant. The new law will help rewrite the Organ Transplant Amendments Act of 1988, which banned HIV positive people from becoming organ donors. This act was written during the height of the HIV and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) scare.

Several transplant centers will not allow HIV-positive patients to become donors due to their health condition. This law could change that by allowing HIV-positive patients to donate to other HIV-positive patients, increasing the availability of organs.

"This is also great news for anyone on a transplant list, because the more organs we have for transplantation, the more lives will be saved," said Dr. Dorry Segev, who helped get the HOPE Act passed. Segev is a transplant surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. "We estimated that there are hundreds of organs that could be used for HIV-positive patients who need them; the more we learn about this practice, the more those transplants will be possible."

Before transplant centers incorporate the HOPE Act, the Department of Health and Human Services and Organ Procurement Transplant Network must create and enforce standards for research into an HIV-positive organ transplant system. The law states that only after the research studies yield good results would the Department of Health and Human Services allow organ transplantation between HIV patients.

"Who would have thought we would go from prohibiting transplants to using HIV positive donors," in just over a decade, said Dr. Peter Stock according to ABC News. Stock is a professor of surgery and transplant surgeon at the University of California San Francisco. "It's wild."

Stock added that the new law is necessary for HIV patients. If the studies find promising results, the revised organ transplant list could make a huge difference for HIV-positive people.

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