For the first time ever, doctors transplanted an organ from an HIV positive donor into an HIV positive recipient, reported the Washington Post.
Surgeons at Johns Hopkins Hospital transplanted a kidney from Nina Martinez to an anonymous recipient. The procedure was successful, and the recipient is now free of kidney dialysis for the first time in a year.
“Society perceives me and people like me as people who bring death,” Martinez said, who has been HIV positive since undergoing a blood transfusion as an infant. “And I can’t figure out any better way to show that people like me can bring life.”
A law was passed in 2016 allowing organs from deceased HIV positive people to be used in transplants on HIV positive recipients. However, this was the first case where the donor was living.
It used to be common belief among medical professionals that leaving someone who is HIV positive with only one kidney could be dangerous to their health. However, a study from researchers at Hopkins found that the risk of developing kidney disease among healthy people with HIV wasn’t significantly larger than the risk those who don’t have HIV face.
More than 113,000 people currently await organ transplants in the U.S., with most needing kidneys.
“People with HIV today can’t donate blood. But now, they’re able to donate a kidney,” said Dorry Segev, a professor of surgery at Hopkins School of Medicine and the surgeon who removed Martinez’s kidney. “They have a disease that, 30 years ago, was a death sentence. Today, they’re so healthy they can give someone else life.”
Both Martinez and the kidney recipient will be on antiretroviral treatment indefinitely. Martinez is in good health and her viral load is undetectable.