amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Organ Transplantation and HIV: New Hope for Policy Reform?

President Obama signs the HOPE Act into law 
Chris Collins (far left), amfAR vice president and director of policy public, looks on as President Obama signs the HOPE Act into law. (Photo: The White House)

In November, the U.S. Congress passed the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act, which allows scientists to perform research on organs donated from deceased people with HIV to other HIV-positive individuals. This life-saving research was previously prohibited in the U.S. by a 25-year-old federal statute barring recovery of organs from individuals with HIV—a statute President Obama called “outdated” when he signed the bill into law. “Passage of the HOPE Act will save lives and also help break down the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS,” said Kevin Robert Frost, amfAR’s CEO.

Many countries in Asia and around the world currently do not allow this type of research, but advocates hope the act’s passage in the U.S. will spark policy reform in other nations. “Many of our colleagues in Asia reacted to this news with excitement,” says Nicolas Durier, TREAT Asia’s director of research. “They can share this information with clinicians and researchers in their own countries and perhaps use this precedent to recommend that their policy makers consider adopting a similar bill.”

Shinichi Oka, M.D., a TREAT Asia network investigator and director of the AIDS Clinical Center of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine in Japan, says he hopes the new policy will be adopted in his country. “HIV-positive patients are waiting for cadaver donors, which are in extreme shortage in Japan. If the same legislation was approved here, the chance of HIV-positive patients receiving a transplant could improve in the future.”