Congress opens door to allowing HIV organ donations

The House this week will take a step toward ending a ban on organ donations from HIV-positive patients.

The House will pass S. 330, the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act, legislation that the Senate passed in June by unanimous consent.

ADVERTISEMENT
The bipartisan bill would re-write language in the Organ Transplant Amendments Act of 1988, which was quickly passed by voice vote in the House and Senate in 1988. That bill, from Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), was meant to ensure that organs from HIV patients would not be given to non-HIV patients.

However, supporters of this week's bill say the 1988 language is "medically outdated." As HIV patients live longer, many are in need of new organs, and some doctors say they would face a much shorter waiting period if organs from other HIV patients were available.

Under the bill, from Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would be allowed to evaluate the state of medical research into HIV organ transplants. If the research shows the transplants can be done, HHS would be able to direct the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network to establish procedures for these operations.

Some estimates say allowing these operations could open up another 600 organ donations each year.

"This legislation offers hope for thousands of patients who are waiting for transplants by allowing scientists to research safe and effective ways to transplant these organs and save lives," Boxer said in June after the Senate passed the bill.

The House will consider the bill as early as Tuesday. It will be considered as a suspension bill, which means it will get less debate and will need a two-thirds vote for passage — suspension bills are usually non-controversial and pass easily.