The Illinois house on Friday approved a bill that would allow HIV-positive adults to donate their organs to other HIV-positive people. The bill, which passed by a 95-22 vote, is the first in the nation to address organ transplants between HIV-positive people. Under current United Network for Organ Sharing rules, organs from HIV-positive people are not permitted for transplantation, even in other HIV-positive patients. If the bill clears the Illinois senate and is signed into law by the governor, the state would have to work with UNOS to revamp its rules to permit such transplants.
Most HIV-positive people are denied organ transplants because of fears their bodies will not be able to handle the anti-rejection drugs that must be taken or that they will not live long enough to fully benefit from the transplants. Most health insurance companies also refuse to pay for transplant surgeries for HIV-positive members. But more and more physicians are beginning to advocate for transplant surgeries for HIV patients who are controlling their HIV disease through antiretroviral therapy, and many physicians in Illinois back the HIV transplant bill.
Robert Murphy, a Northwestern University professor of infectious diseases, said, "The original law was actually put in place for a very good reason," but he added that "nobody thought through the fact that an HIV-positive person might actually benefit from the infected organ." State representative Larry McKeon, who sponsored the bill and is HIV-positive, said that the legislation is "about saving lives and prolonging lives." Critics of the bill, however, say the measure could lead to the mistaken transplant of an organ from an HIV-positive donor into an HIV-negative patient, which would transmit the virus to that patient. It is unclear whether the bill has enough support to pass in the Senate, in which Democrats hold 32 of 59 seats.