A major announcement yesterday for Yale New Haven Hospital, sharing that the hospital has received approval from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) to became one of eight transplant centers in the United States to receive permission to use organs from HIV-positive donors.
YNHH joins only five other hospitals who have received this approval. Following the passage of the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act of 2013 and more recent approval from the United Network for Organ Sharing, a multidisciplinary team from Johns Hopkins Medicine traveled to Yale New Haven Hospital on March 19, 2016 and performed the first-ever HIV-to-HIV liver transplant and first-ever HIV-to-HIV kidney transplant in the United States.
“HIV patients are living longer due to effective anti-retroviral treatment,” said Dr. Maricar Malinis, medical director of Transplant Infectious Diseases at YNHH and assistant professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases) and Surgery.
By giving an HIV-infected organ to an HIV-infected patient, it simply means more hopes to thousands of patients in waiting lists
“They are more likely to suffer from chronic medical illnesses similar to our non-HIV patients. End Stage Renal Disease is a growing problem in the HIV population and there is an increased need for kidney transplantation. The use of HIV deceased organ for HIV transplant candidates will decrease their waiting time. At the same time, it provides an opportunity for our HIV patients to give back to the community by organ donation.” Previously, an antiquated law which the HOPE Act reversed prevented doctors from using organs from HIV-positive donors, even to save HIV-positive patients desperately in need of organs. Despite very positive outcomes when HIV-positive patients received HIV-negative organs and the proven success of HIV-positive to HIV-positive kidney transplants in South Africa, HIV-positive to HIV-positive transplant in the U.S. was not a possibility until the HOPE Act’s passage in 2013.
“Participation in the HOPE act is yet another example of how the Yale New Haven Organ Transplant program is leveraging its vast intellectual and clinical resources to benefit patients with organ failure in Connecticut and the Northeast,” said Richard N. Formica Jr., MD professor of Medicine and Surgery and director of Transplant Medicine.
The advantage of such transplants is that they might reduce waiting times for HIV-positive patients and also free up other organs for patients who don’t have the immune-weakening virus.
“The shortage of donated organs is very real for our patients, as they wait day after day for that life-altering call that an organ is available for them,” said Peter Yoo, MD, director, Surgical Residency, YNHH and director, Paired Kidney Exchange Program at YNHH. “We are proud and excited that the Yale New Haven Transplant Center is able to be part of the vanguard leading the push to increase opportunities for transplantation for all of our patients. “Yale New Haven Hospital will look to enroll our first patients for this program beginning this month. The study is led by Drs. Malinis (Infectious Diseases), Formica (Transplant Nephrologist) and Yoo (Transplant Surgeon).
According to UNOS, 218 HIV-positive patients received transplanted kidneys in 2015. Last year, 17,878 patients received kidney transplants in the United States. More than 4,200 died while waiting for a transplant.