In the first operation of its kind, a kidney from an HIV-positive living donor has been transplanted into an HIV-positive recipient. Nina Martinez, who acquired HIV as an infant from a blood transfusion, donated her left kidney to an anonymous recipient on March 25 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Although there have been more than 100 organ transplants from deceased HIV-positive donors, an organ has never before been donated by a living HIV-positive donor.
“This is the first time someone living with HIV has been allowed to donate a kidney, ever, in the world, and that’s huge,” said Dr. Dorry Segev in a statement. Dr. Segev, a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, led the research team that evaluated the safety of the surgery and removed Ms. Martinez’s kidney. “A disease that was a death sentence in the 1980s has become one so well controlled that those living with HIV can now save lives with kidney donation—that’s incredible.” He noted that people with HIV are still barred from donating blood.
“Some people believe that people living with HIV are ‘sick,’ or look unwell,” said Ms. Martinez, a public health consultant in Atlanta, Georgia, in a statement. “I want people to change what they believe they know about HIV. I don’t want to be anyone’s hero. I want to be someone’s example, someone’s reason to consider donating.”
It is hoped that this development will pave the way for the expansion of the pool of organs available for donation, as well as reduce HIV stigma.
“This story is a testament to the power of research, not only in helping us understand and treat HIV, but also in changing medical policy and reducing stigma,” said amfAR Vice President and Director of Research Dr. Rowena Johnston. “By partnering with the community of people living with HIV, a new solution to an old problem has been found.”
The Washington Post: First living HIV-positive donor provides kidney for transplant in medical breakthrough
CNN: In world first, HIV-positive woman donates kidney to HIV-positive recipient
ABC: Doctors complete first living kidney transplant from one HIV-positive person to another