Researchers reported Thursday at the 19th International Congress of the Transplantation Society in Miami that patients with HIV are successfully receiving liver and kidney transplants, challenging widespread reluctance by transplant centers to give scarce organs to people with incurable disease. Because thousands of HIV-positive adults are living longer with powerful drugs, some develop organ failure for other reasons, including liver failure related to hepatitis C, making them candidates for transplants. Doctors typically will not give organs to anyone who is too sick to benefit, including HIV-positive patients.
Pittsburgh-based researchers reported at the conference that several transplants performed on HIV-positive people during the past two years in the United States and France showed that at one year after the transplant surgeries HIV-positive patients were just as likely to survive as any other transplant recipients. Specifically, 13 of 14 HIV-positive liver and kidney transplant recipients at the University of California, San Francisco, are still alive. In Philadelphia, 17 of 20 HIV-positive kidney transplant recipients are still alive one year after surgery, with all three deaths being unrelated to HIV infection. Similar data were reported at medical centers in Pittsburgh and Miami.
The researchers did warn, however, that HIV-positive patients require special attention after transplant surgery because drugs taken to prevent the body from rejecting the new organ can worsen HIV. It is important to achieve the right balance among the medicines, they said.