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Congress Will Finally Let You Donate an Organ if You're HIV-Positive

By Michael Regula

Health advocates are celebrating a vote in the House of Representatives that lifted the federal ban on the donation of HIV-positive organs to HIV-positive recipients, updating regulations that had banned the life saving procedures. The HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act was passed by the Senate in June, faced no opposition today, and now heads to President Obama to officially sign into law.

The HOPE Act, introduced in the Senate by Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Rand Paul (R-KY), had bipartisan support in both the Senate and House. It now directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Organ Procurement Transplant Network (OPTN) to develop and institute standards for research on HIV-positive transplantation, paving the way for transplantation once changes to the current network are properly implemented and safety has been assured.

“While many are disheartened by the persistent partisan gridlock plaguing Washington, yesterday’s bipartisan vote was a pleasant reminder that common-sense governance is still possible,” said Kali Lindsey, director of legislative and public affairs for the National Minority AIDS Council.

“By reforming outdated policies banning all HIV-positive organ donations, Congress has provided hope not only to the thousands of people living with HIV in desperate need of a transplant, but also HIV-negative individuals who will benefit from the decrease in demand for un-infected organs.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, “The number of individuals in need of organ transplants far exceeds the availability of healthy organs; more than 100,000 patients are actively waiting for life-saving organs and about 50,000 more are added annually.” The HRC worked closely with leaders in both chambers to insure a change to  current  federal law requiring all potential donors to be tested for HIV shortly after their death, eliminating from consideration those found to have been infected with the virus.

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