Doctors at Johns Hopkins hospital have performed the world’s first transplant of a kidney from an HIV living donor.
On Monday, Nina Martinez donated her kidney to a stranger with HIV. She said that she wants to make something different for other people and remove the stigma of HIV infection.
Most people often “those with HIV often look sick,” said Martinez before the operation. “This a powerful statement to prove that somebody like me who is healthy can a living donor.”
Johns Hopkins hospital said that both the kidney’s recipient and Martinez are recovering quickly.
“Here is a condition which used to be a death sentence in the past and has been now controlled so well that it gives HIV people a chance to save somebody’s life,” said a surgeon of the hospital.
There is no exact number of HIV-positive patients who are on the waiting list of the country for organ transplants. HIV-positive patients could get transplants from an HIV-negative donor just like everyone.
Around 116 such liver and kidney surgeries have been performed since 2016 in America for research purposes. A question is if get an organ from a person with different HIV strains than their own would pose any threats. So far, there have been still no safety issues.
Doctors used to hesitate to allow those living people with HIV to become an organ donor due to concern over the possible damage from older medications and virus. But recent anti-HIV drugs are more effective and safer. The Johns Hopkins hospital has recently studied 40,000 HIV-positive patients for their kidney health and found out that those with well-regulated HIV might have the same threats from living donation like someone without the virus.
“There are possibly more than 10,000 people dealing with HIV now who would be a living kidney donor,” said the surgeon. “In general, a kidney from a living donor can last longer. So if more people with HIV decide to donate, it would help more than HIV-positive people who need the organ.
Martinez is a consultant on public health. She is interested in living kidney donation before HIV-to-HIV transplantation started. Last summer, she learned that her HIV-positive friend required a transplant, so she decided to ask for a donation. Though her friend passed away before Martinez ended the required health test, she still donated to someone else to honor him.