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Can I Donate if I’m HIV+?

Thanks to the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act (HOPE ACT), enacted on November, 21st 2013, it is possible for people who are HIV+ to become organ donors.

The HOPE Act

Until 2013 it was against federal regulation to transplant organs from someone who was HIV+ into a potential organ recipient, even if the intended organ recipient was also HIV+. However, in 2013 these HIV prohibitions were determined by Congress to be outdated. The HOPE Act directed the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary to develop guidelines to conduct research relating to HIV+ donors and organ transplantation.

There will always be regulations in place to ensure that a HIV- recipient does not receive and organ from a HIV+ donor. The HOPE Act simply gives more people a chance to give the gift of life. Given the very limited number of transplantable organs available for the more than 120,000 people who are waiting for the gift of life, it makes sense to look at all the possible ways to safely and ethically save as many lives as possible.

The Need

As a result of advances in HIV treatments, some people living with HIV are now living long enough to also face end-stage organ failure – just like others who are facing end-stage heart, lung, liver, kidney failure. Organ transplant is a treatment for end-stage organ failure and being HIV+ does not keep patients off the wait list for transplant and a person who is HIV+ can receive a donated organ just like anyone else in need. However, for those on the waiting list who are HIV+, an organ from a HIV+ donor would be a lifesaving gift. Because this increases the number of people who could potentially become deceased and living organ donors, more lives can be saved.

  • 120,000 people in the US are waiting for a lifesaving transplant.
  • An estimated 600 HIV+ donors per year could mean 1,000 more organs transplanted and lives saved.
  • HIV+ donors will decrease the wait time for both HIV+ and HIV- recipients.
  • The HOPE Act means more organs will be available for transplant.

Leaving a Legacy

Transplant recipients are not the only people who benefit from the HOPE Act. Individuals living with HIV who want to help others after their death can now register to participate in organ donation and share the gift of life. Additionally, the families of these estimated 600 annual donors will have the comfort of knowing their loved one left behind a legacy of selflessness and generosity. This is often a source of comfort and healing for donor family members after an otherwise tragic loss.

Click here to learn more about the HOPE Act.

Lindsey Williams is the LifeSource Community Education Liaison. She believes each person’s views on organ donation are as unique as they are. Her role focuses on answering questions to help the community make their own decisions about donation.