Emory Transplant Center Performs First HIV-Positive Liver Transplant

The Emory Transplant Center performed its first liver transplant from an HIV-positive deceased donor to an HIV-positive recipient. The procedure is not only the first successful HIV-positive to HIV-positive liver transplant in Georgia, but it is also the first in the Southeast.

In November 2013, the HOPE Act, a policy allowing organ donation between two HIV positive individuals, was signed by President Obama. This Act became effective in November 2015, authorizing transplantation clinical trials between HIV-positive donors and transplant recipients.

Previously, organs from HIV-positive donors were discarded, despite the fact they were often well-functioning and capable of saving lives. Through the HOPE Act, Emory Transplant Center and 21 other centers nationwide are taking part in the HOPE in Action clinical trial — a prospective study evaluating the safety of HIV-positive deceased donor kidney and liver transplants in HIV-positive recipients.  Complications that may arise post-transplant are studied too. It is important to note, these organs are never transplanted into HIV-negative recipients.

“More than 7,000 Americans die annually while waiting for an organ transplant, highlighting the critical need to expand the donor organ supply,” says William Kitchens, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Emory University and a liver transplant surgeon at Emory Healthcare. “The HOPE Act makes an important contribution to solving this medical crisis, as previously these organs from HIV-positive donors were discarded, despite the fact that they were often well-functioning and capable of saving lives. Across the nation, more than 200 HIV-positive recipients are now enrolled in the HOPE Act trial to potentially receive HIV-positive donor organs, and we expect this number to continue to grow.”

Stable HIV-infected adults with kidney or liver disease who meet study-specific HIV criteria for organ transplantation will be offered enrollment in the clinical study at Emory. Participants will be followed and evaluated for four years after their transplant.

“Because of improved anti-retroviral regimens and other advances in their care, patients with HIV are living much longer and are known to have excellent outcomes after organ transplantation,” says Kitchens. “By utilizing organs from HIV-positive donors that were previously discarded, the HOPE Act significantly shortens the wait time for HIV-positive patients in need of an organ transplant.”

Kitchens continues to say, “We commend the bravery of our recipient who participated in this trial and also extend our deepest gratitude to the donor and the donor’s family for providing this gift of life. We also thank LifeLink of Georgia for their help in making this transplant a reality. Every day we encounter patients in desperate need of life-saving organ transplants, and we encourage everyone — both those living with HIV and those who are not — to register as an organ donor, as a critical need remains.”

About Emory Transplant Center

As one of the top 15 transplant centers in the nation, Emory Transplant Center is at the forefront of clinical excellence and pioneering new transplant therapies. The center offers cutting-edge technology and superior outcomes in heart, kidney, liver, lung, and pancreas transplant surgeries. Emory Transplant Center, a part of Emory Healthcare, has performed more than 8,000 transplants to date and all solid organ programs meet Transplant Centers of Excellence quality outcome criteria. The center’s core mission is to provide exceptional care for patients in need of organ transplants while offering access to the latest transplant technology.

To learn more about the Emory Transplant Center, visit emoryhealthcare.org/transplant.

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