Senators praise Hope Act

Sen. Tom Coburn

Sen. Tom Coburn

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) praised the Senate’s passage last night of the HOPE Act (HIV Organ Policy Equity Act), legislation that would end the federal ban on research into organ donations from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients.

The bipartisan measure – which is also sponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Rand Paul (R-KY), Richard Burr (R-NC), Michael Enzi (R-WY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Carl Levin (D-MI) – would open a pathway for the eventual transplantation of these organs, offering hope to thousands of HIV-positive patients who are on waiting lists for life-saving organs. Currently, even researching the feasibility of these potentially life-saving transplants is banned under federal law.

Senator Barbara Boxer

Senator Barbara Boxer

“I applaud the Senate for moving to end this outdated ban on research into organ donations between HIV-positive individuals,” Senator Boxer said. “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.”

“The passage of the HOPE Act is an encouraging step forward for HIV-positive individuals who need organ transplants,” Dr. Coburn said.  “By lifting these arcane federal regulations, we give hope by allowing doctors and scientists to explore potentially transformative research into organ donations between HIV-positive patients.”

The HOPE Act would establish a regular review process in which the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary evaluates the progress of medical research into these procedures. If the research demonstrates that transplants from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients can be safely and successfully completed, the HHS Secretary will have the authority to direct the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network to establish procedures to begin such transplantations.

The ban on the donation of organs from HIV-positive donors and on related research was put into place as part of the Organ Transplant Amendments Act of 1988, but is now medically outdated. Thanks to advances in antiretroviral therapy, many HIV-positive patients are living longer. However, these patients are now more likely to face chronic conditions such as liver and kidney failure, for which organ transplants are the standard form of care.

There are currently more than 100,000 patients on the active waiting list for organ transplants in the United States and about 50,000 people are added to the list each year – but fewer than 30,000 transplants are performed annually. Tragically, many patients die while waiting for a transplant.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Transplantation, allowing organ transplants from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients could increase the organ donation pool by 500-600 donors a year and save hundreds of lives.

This legislation has broad support from the medical community and advocacy groups, including the American Medical Association, American Society of Transplant Surgeons, American Society of Transplantation, Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, American Academy of HIV Medicine, American Society for the Study of Liver Disease, the Human Rights Campaign, National Minority AIDS Council, HIV Medicine Association, National Coalition for LGBT Health, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, United Network for Organ Sharing, The AIDS Institute, amfAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research), Lambda Legal, the Treatment Access Group (TAG), and AIDS United.

In the House, the HOPE Act has been introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and Andy Harris (R-MD).