Right Now

Nov 13 2013


Bipartisan Legislation Would End the Federal Ban on Research into Organ Donations Between HIV-Positive Patients

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) praised the House’s passage of the HOPE Act (HIV Organ Policy Equity Act), legislation that would end the federal ban on research into organ donations from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients. 

The bipartisan Boxer-Coburn legislation passed the Senate in June. The House legislation – which was sponsored by Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and Andy Harris (R-MD) – passed the House today by a voice vote.  The measure now goes to the President for his signature. 

“Ending this outdated research ban is an important step forward that will give hope to thousands of patients and their families,” Senator Boxer said. “This bipartisan legislation has strong support from the medical community and patients’ advocacy groups, who know this research has the potential to save hundreds of lives each year.” 

“For years, arcane federal rules have restricted what could be potentially life-saving organ transplants for HIV-positive individuals.  I applaud the House of Representative for following the Senate’s lead and taking action to lift these rules,” said Senator Coburn. 

“I am incredibly proud to have authored this bill and applaud my colleagues in the House for coming together to pass this common sense, no-cost, bipartisan bill that has the potential to save lives, improve health outcomes, and save taxpayer dollars,” Representative Capps said. “The HOPE Act could open up the door to hundreds more life-saving organ transplants and reduce the organ transplant waiting list for all 100,000 Americans who are on it.” 

“As a physician, I have seen numerous times the life-saving joy that an organ transplant brings to patients and their families,” said Representative Harris. “The HOPE Act changes an outdated law by making government work in a more efficient and effective manner for all patients needing transplants – both those with HIV and those without – which is exactly what the American people expect from their elected officials.” 

The bipartisan measure – also sponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Rand Paul (R-KY), Richard Burr (R-NC), Michael Enzi (R-WY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Carl Levin (D-MI) – would open a pathway to the eventual transplantation of these organs and could provide life-saving assistance to HIV-positive patients who are at risk of liver and kidney failure.

 The ban on the donation of organs from HIV-positive donors and related research was enacted as part of the Organ Transplant Amendments Act of 1988, but is now medically outdated. With the advances in antiretroviral therapy, many HIV-positive patients are living longer lives. These patients are now more likely to face chronic conditions such as liver and kidney failure, for which organ transplants are the standard form of care.

There are currently more than 100,000 patients on the active waiting list for organ transplants in the United States and about 50,000 people are added to the list each year – but fewer than 30,000 transplants are performed annually. Tragically, many patients die while waiting for a transplant.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Transplantation, allowing organ transplants from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients could increase the organ donation pool by 500-600 donors a year and save hundreds of lives.

This legislation has broad support from the medical community and advocacy groups, including the American Medical Association, American Society of Transplant Surgeons, American Society of Transplantation, Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, American Academy of HIV Medicine, American Society for the Study of Liver Disease, the Human Rights Campaign, National Minority AIDS Council, HIV Medicine Association, National Coalition for LGBT Health, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, United Network for Organ Sharing, The AIDS Institute, amfAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research), Lambda Legal, the Treatment Access Group (TAG), and AIDS United.