The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has launched a five-year, $17 million study to examine the safety and outcomes of organ transplants in HIV-positive people, The Boston Globe reports. NIAID on Thursday authorized Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston to begin enrolling HIV-positive patients who need kidney or liver transplants due to diseases other than HIV. The overall study will be conducted at 17 transplant centers and will involve 275 HIV-positive men and women. The study was launched because as HIV-positive people are living longer on highly active antiretroviral therapy, they are facing complications from other diseases, particularly hepatitis, that cause them to require organ transplants in order to survive.
Most health insurance companies refuse to cover such transplants because of alleged health risks to the organ recipients, who must suppress their immune systems to avoid rejecting the organs, and because of a lack of scientific data showing the transplants to provide long-term benefits for HIV-positive recipients. Many hospitals also refuse to perform organ transplants on HIV-positive patients. But a few recent studies have shown that HAART has enabled HIV-positive adults to become healthy enough to benefit from the surgeries and to withstand the immunity-suppressing drugs they must take. One study released in late 2003 showed that 87% of HIV-positive kidney transplant patients were still alive one year after the transplant surgery, a percentage virtually identical to HIV-negative kidney recipients.