Research ban on HIV-positive organ transplants in Senators' crosshairs

The legislation that cleared the HELP panel Wednesday, known as HOPE Act, was sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), and enjoys support from co-sponsors from both parties.

It would direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish a review process to evaluate the latest medical thinking on transplants from HIV-positive donors. If transplants between HIV-positive patients are deemed safe, the HHS Secretary would have authority to direct the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network to establish policies to begin the procedures.

“This legislation will allow sound science to explore organ exchanges between HIV-positive donors and HIV-positive recipient,” Coburn said. “If research shows positive results, HIV-positive patients will have an increased pool of donors.”

Allowing organ transplants between HIV-positive patients could add 500 to 600 people to the donor pool annually, potentially saving hundreds of lives annually, according to a study published in the American Journal of Transplantation.

Co-sponsors on the bill, which moves next to the full Senate, include Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)

It also has the backing of the American Medical Association, and more than a dozen other medical and advocacy groups.