Right Now

Nov 21 2013


Boxer-Coburn Legislation Could Save Lives and Reduce Delays in Receiving Organ Transplants by Ending Outdated Ban on Research into Organ Donations Between HIV-Positive Patients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 President Obama for signing their bipartisan legislation, the HOPE Act (HIV Organ Policy Equity Act), which ends the federal ban on research into organ donations from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients. The bipartisan measure 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 Boxer-Coburn bill passed the Senate in June, and the House version, introduced by Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and Andy Harris (R-MD), was passed earlier this month by a voice vote.

“I am proud that President Obama signed our bipartisan legislation into law today,” Senator Boxer said. “Ending this outdated research ban will save lives and give hope to thousands of patients and their families.”

Senator Coburn said, “I applaud the President for signing this important piece of bipartisan legislation into law and am hopeful it produces encouraging results for HIV-positive individuals.”

“After years of work on crafting this legislation, building bipartisan, bicameral consensus, and collaborating with advocates in the HIV and medical communities, I am thrilled to see the President sign the HOPE Act into law today,” Representative Capps said. “This proves that even in a divided Congress, we can come together to pass common sense bills with bipartisan efforts that will help save lives, improve health outcomes, and save taxpayer dollars.”

Representative Harris said, “This legislation gives new hope to all of those waiting for organ transplants. As a physician who has performed anesthesia during organ transplants, I have seen firsthand the life-saving joy that receiving an organ can bring to patients and their families.  I appreciate the bipartisan support this common sense change to an outdated law has received.”

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donors and related research was enacted as part of the Organ Transplant Amendments Act of 1988, but is now medically outdated.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. 

The bipartisan Senate bill was co-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). 

This legislation also has broad support from the medical community and advocacy groups, including the American Medical Association, American Society of Nephrology, 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.