Revealing transplant surgeries, the NHS urges those with HIV to join organ donation scheme

Four surgeries between HIV-positive donors and recipients have taken place in the last five years

NHS, Organ Donation, HIV, Positive, Donor, Liver, Kidney, Transplant, Surgery

[Flickr/Tareq Salahuddin]

Britain’s National Health Service has revealed for the first time that organs from patients with HIV have been used in transplant operations in the UK for the first times. The four surgeries – two liver transplants from different donors and a pair of kidneys from the same person – were harvested from deceased HIV-positive patients and transferred to other patients with the same virus.

NHS Blood & Transplant, the body in charge of the UK’s organ donation programme, revealed that all of the surgeries had taken place in the last five years. The decision to go public was made in order to encourage men and women living with HIV in the UK to consider signing up to be organ donors.

The NHS said that any organs donated through the scheme would not be used for HIV-negative recipients due to the risk posed by infection.

Speaking to The Guardian, associate medical director for organ donation & transplantation at the NHSBT Prof John Forsythe said: “It’s exciting that some people with HIV in the UK have helped benefit patients with HIV after their death by donating their organs.

“In the UK, there is a shortage of organ donors and on average three people a day die in need of an organ transplant.

“While organ transplants from donors with HIV are limited to recipients with HIV infection, innovations like this open up the possibility of donation where it did not previously exist and will help to reduce the shortage of donor organs.”

Both of the liver transplant operations were performed by surgeons at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, while the kidney transplants took place at Guy’s Hospital in London.

The very first kidney transplant between HIV-infected persons was carried out in South Africa in 2008, but it was only as recently as March that Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reported the first transplants in the US.

While not every HIV-positive patient will be able to donate their organs, Prof Forsythe said that the NHS wants to encourage everyone to considered organ donation and to speak to their family members about it.

“Please don’t let the fact you have a health condition stop you from registering as a donor,” he said.

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