NYC doctors perform first-ever heart transplant from HIV-positive donor — hope breakthrough will help tame America’s massive shortage of heart donations
- The first-ever HIV-positive heart transplant was performed in the Bronx, New York, in the spring
- The unnamed patient is in her 60s and has also received a new kidney from the same donor
- Until 2013, these types of operations were banned and even now they can only be performed for research purposes
- Proponents hope restrictions on HIV-positive organ donors will be lifted, giving those in need more potential treatments
Doctors in New York City performed the first-ever heart transplant of a person who is HIV-positive.
An unnamed woman in her 60s who suffered from advanced heart failure received both a heart and kidney transplant from the same HIV-positive donor in the spring, doctors at Montefiore Health in the Bronx, New York City, announced this week. The woman herself also had HIV.
Organ transplants from HIV-positive donors were banned in the US until 2013. Now they are allowed in the context of research into how a body will respond to the new organs.
With more than 100,000 Americans waiting for a new organ — and more than a dozen people on that list dying every day — doctors are hopeful that even a small expansion of the pool of donors will make it possible to save more lives. Matching HIV-positive patients with other HIV-positive donors could also enable a more efficient use of other resources.
Doctors in New York City performed the first-ever heart transplant of a person who is HIV-positive. An unnamed woman in her 60s who suffered from advanced heart failure received both a heart and kidney transplant from the same donor (file photo)
“This is something that has not been done before. It’s part of a wider effort to utilize organs that have not been used in the past,” Dr. David Klassen, medical director of the United Network for Organ Sharing to DailyMail.com.
WHY MODERN MEDS MEAN HIV IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE
Before 1996, HIV was a death sentence. Then antiretroviral therapy (ART) was made to suppress the virus. Now a person can live as long as anyone else, despite having HIV.
Drugs have also been invented to lower an HIV-negative person’s risk of contracting the virus by 99%.
Research has shown in recent years that ART can suppress HIV in such a way that the virus cannot be passed on to sexual partners.
That has sparked a movement to lower the crime of infecting a person with HIV: The victim gets lifelong, expensive drugs, but it doesn’t mean certain death.
Here’s more about the new life-saving and preventive drugs:
1. Medicines for HIV-positive people
It suppresses their viral load so that the virus is not transferable
In 1996, antiretroviral therapy (ART) was discovered.
The drug, a triple combination, turned HIV from a fatal diagnosis to a manageable chronic condition.
It suppresses the virus and prevents it from developing into AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), which makes the body not resistant to infections.
After taking the daily pill religiously for six months, it suppresses the virus to such an extent that it is undetectable.
And once a person’s viral load is undetectable, they can’t transmit HIV to someone else, according to dozens of studies, including a 10-year study by the National Health Institutes.
Public health authorities around the world now recognize that U=U (undetectable equals non-transmissible).
The demand for new organs will always exceed the available supply around the world. Official data shows that 106,023 Americans are waiting for an organ donation as of Friday afternoon.
In comparison, only about 40,000 transplants are performed each year. This leads to many people dying while waiting for a new organ – and the list of potential recipients is growing regularly too.
Heart transplants, in particular, can be hard to come by. Recipients must hope to find a suitable donor whose cause of death did not damage their hearts.
This led doctors in Montefiore – one of 25 hospitals in America eligible to perform the surgery – decided to offer the HIV-positive transplant to a woman who had been waiting a long time.
“She had been waiting for a while and we thought, why don’t we discuss this with the patient? And she was really okay with and accepted the risks and benefits and signed consent,” said Dr Omar Saeed, a cardiologist at Montefiore. Bronx Times.
Her four-hour surgery was successful and after five weeks in the hospital she is recovering at home.
However, it took some time and political will to get to this point. In the 1980s, during the AIDS crisis, organ donations from HIV-positive Americans were banned.
On the one hand, the ban protected HIV-negative people from getting the virus due to the desperation of getting the organ.
It also prevented HIV-positive recipients, for whom receiving an organ from a positive person poses no additional risk.
However, with the medical and technological advances that have been made in recent years, the virus is no longer a death sentence and more HIV-positive people will need these types of transplants.
An HIV patient can forever take antiretroviral drugs, which will prevent the virus from forming in AIDS while also preventing them from passing the infection on to someone else.
“Heart transplantation has always been very limited,” Klassmen told DailyMail.com.
“The treatment of HIV has changed so much over the years that once a deadly disease was more of a chronic disease.”
In 2013, the HOPE (HIV Organ Policy Equity) Act was passed, lifting the ban on HIV-positive donors and giving infected people more opportunities to receive critical medical treatment.
This makes it all the more important to make more options available, as HIV-positive patients live much longer and have more medical needs over time.
“Any effort to expand to a pool of potential donors is a good thing,” he added.