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Senate Ends Ban on Research into Organ Donations between HIV-Positive Individuals

By Helen Anderson
Food Pyramid -

History was made Monday, June 17, 2013, as the Senate passed a bill to end the ban on research into organ donations between HIV-positive individuals. The bill was passed to establish safeguards during research on organ donations between individuals with the ill-fated condition. The passing of this bill has been almost a year-long fought battle in Washington, D.C.

Senator Barbara Levy Boxer, a California Senator from the Democratic Party, along with Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Senator from the Republican Party, wrote and submitted the HOPE Act (HIV Organ Policy Equity Act) on February 14, 2013. The goal of the act is to entrust HIV-positive individuals the ability to freely donate their organs to other HIV-positive patients who need them. Before Monday, this medical procedure was prohibited by federal law. The ban was part of the Organ Transplants Amendment Act of 1988.

The success of the bill is dependent on future research. If research shows that there are no risks for this kind of procedure to be done, it will no longer be a federal crime. The HOPE Act will establish a standard review process by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has the medical expertise to perform research while evaluating transplant policies. The HHS secretary has the final authority to give the go-ahead on future medical transplantation procedures between HIV-infected donors and HIV-infected recipients.

Senator Coburn, who is also a medical doctor, publicly announced that the HOPE Act is an encouraging step forward for HIV-positive individuals who need organ transplants. Senator Boxer also made an inspiring public statement on the issue.

“I applaud the Senate for moving to end this outdated ban on research into organ donations between HIV-positive individuals,” Boxer said Monday.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

A study published in the American Journal of Transplantation highlights the success of kidney transplantation from HIV-infected donors to HIV-infected recipients in South Africa. This success story was part of what drew many to the legislative ban in the United States. It raised justice and equity concerns among people. It also instigated debates among Senators as to whether it was right to withhold such benefits from HIV-infected patients.

Currently, the HOPE Act is a bipartisan bill recommended by both democrats and republicans. As the name implicitly connotes, it will bring hope to thousands of HIV-positive individuals currently on the active waiting list for organ transplant procedures.


References:
1. Human Rights Campaign. HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act. Human Rights Campaign; Updated June 18, 2013. Available From: http://www.hrc.org/laws-and-legislation/federal-legislation/hiv-organ-policy-equity-hope-act
2. Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. Boxer, Coburn, Praise Senate Passage of the HOPE Act. June 18, 2013. Available From: http://www.boxer.senate.gov/en/press/releases/061813.cfm

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