First-ever HIV-positive donor gives kidney for transplant

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An Atlanta woman has become the world’s first living HIV-positive kidney donor, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Nina Martinez, 35, donated the organ to a recipient who is also HIV-positive and chose to remain anonymous at Johns Hopkins on Monday, according to the university’s announcement.

{mosads}“This is the first time someone living with HIV has been allowed to donate a kidney, ever, in the world, and that’s huge,” says Dorry Segev, M.D., Ph.D., professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “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.”

Prior to the successful donation, doctors had been concerned HIV was too much of a risk factor for kidney disease for patients to serve as donors. Recently, Segev and colleagues have conducted research on more than 40,000 HIV patients suggesting that new antiretroviral drugs do not negatively affect human kidneys and those whose HIV is “well-controlled” have approximately the same risk as those without.

The HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act directed the Department of Health and Human Services and the Organ Procurement Transplant Network to develop standards for research on HIV-positive organ transplantation and allows the HHS secretary to sign off on transplants between HIV-positive people.

A few months later, Martinez saw a “Grey’s Anatomy” storyline about a kidney donor with HIV and explored the possibility of becoming a donor herself, according to Johns Hopkins. In 2018, she contacted Johns Hopkins hoping to help a friend who needed a kidney. While her friend passed away before Martinez could be cleared as a donor, she told Johns Hopkins she was still willing to donate.

“Despite losing my friend to kidney disease, I wanted to move forward with donation as a way to honor them,” Martinez said, according to the announcement. “I could do this for someone else, not because I’m special but because I’m strong.”

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