People with HIV have donated organs to others with the condition

Thursday, 05 May 2016

NHS Blood and Transplant has recently released figures that show that a small number of people with HIV in the UK have helped benefit patients living with HIV after their deaths by donating their organs.

In total, donations from three HIV positive solid organ donors in the UK have led to organ transplants, all within the last five years. Two of them donated their liver and these were both transplanted.  The other donor donated two kidneys and both were transplanted.

As with all organ donation and transplants, the families and patients involved have a right to their anonymity, so NHS Blood and Transplant will not release any further details about these donations and transplants.

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.

“Successful 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.

“As with any organ transplant, we 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. We are very keen that everyone, regardless of their health status, registers a decision to donate on the NHS Organ Donor Register at www.organdonation.nhs.uk and tells their family they want to donate. Please don’t let the fact you have a health condition stop you from registering as a donor.”

Further information

  • All potential donors are tested for a number of infections, including HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C
  • f the potential donor has HIV infection, donation would not normally proceed unless this is a life-preserving operation
  • At present, organs from donors with HIV are limited to a recipient who also has HIV infection
  • In total, donations from three HIV positive solid organ donors in the UK have led to organ transplants, all within the last five years. Two of them donated their liver and these were both transplanted. The other donor donated two kidneys and both were transplanted.
  • All donated organs are associated with risk to recipients and in the case of donors with HIV there are two specific types of risk: 
    • The first risk is that the virus itself is passed on to a recipient, although this would not be an issue if the recipient also had the condition.  
    • The second risk is that the donor has more advanced HIV and may pass on some of the infective and cancerous complications of the condition that would pose a real threat to a recipient.
  • This means that we have to make a very careful assessment of how well the donor’s HIV has been treated and whether there is evidence of any other infections (such as fungal infections) or illnesses that follow on from HIV and which might impact upon the health of the recipient.

  • Using this information the surgeons will 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
  • There have not been any living donor transplants from donors with HIV in the UK.