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HIV transplant breakthrough could inspire new donors - top medic

Published 05/05/2016

Doctors hope the breakthrough will inspire people living with HIV to join the organ donor register
Doctors hope the breakthrough will inspire people living with HIV to join the organ donor register

Successful organ transplants from donors with HIV to patients with the infection will help reduce shortages, a leading medic has said.

There has been a small number of transplants in the UK from donors with HIV and it is hoped the medical breakthrough will inspire people living with the condition to join the organ donor register.

Medics have transplanted HIV-infected organs from three donors into four HIV patients in the last five years, in what is being hailed as a significant medical advance.

T wo people donated their liver and these were both transplanted, while the other donor donated two kidneys and both were transplanted, NHS Blood and Transplant said.

Professor John Forsythe, associate medical director for Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: "It's exciting that some people with HIV in the UK have helped benefit patients with HIV after their death by donating their organs.

"In the UK there is a shortage of organ donors and on average three people a day die in need of an organ transplant.

"While organ transplants from donors with HIV are limited to recipients with HIV infection, innovations like this open up the possibility of donation where it did not previously exist and will help to reduce the shortage of donor organs.

"We hope the news that there have been a small number of transplants in the UK from donors with HIV will inspire people living with the condition to join the NHS Organ Donor Register."

Prof Forsythe said s uccessful organ transplants of this kind from donors with HIV to recipients with HIV are now possible thanks to the improvements in the management and treatment of the condition.

"But it is important that organs donated can be safely used and will not cause harm to the recipient. For someone with HIV to become an organ donor their condition needs to have been responding well to treatment and there should not be evidence of secondary complications of the condition," he added.

As with any organ transplant, Prof Forsythe said they work hard to minimise the risks to the recipient.

"We carefully evaluate all donors, and with potential donors with HIV we also need to understand how well their HIV has been treated and whether the donor had any infections or illnesses associated with more advanced HIV.

"Surgeons will use this information to balance the risks of using an organ from someone with HIV with the risk of their patient dying while waiting for another organ to become available.

"The surgeon will ensure that the recipient understands and accepts the risk. All transplants are dependent on people being willing to donate and families being prepared to help transform other people's lives by donating a relative's organs," he said.

Prof Forsythe said medics were very keen that everyone, regardless of their health status, registered a decision to donate on the NHS Organ Donor Register and told their family.

"Please don't let the fact you have a health condition stop you from registering as a donor," he added.

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