In US, 1st kidney transplant from living donor with HIV

Before this transplant operation, doctors had believed it was too risky to leave an HIV-positive patient with only one kidney. (AFP Relaxnews pic)

The kidney of a 35-year-old HIV-positive woman has been transplanted into another patient with the AIDS virus, US surgeons announced Thursday, in a major medical breakthrough.

The surgeons at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore performed the operation on Monday, calling it the first in the world of its kind.

The donor, identified as Nina Martinez, was to address reporters alongside her doctors at 1pm. The recipient has not been named.

Martinez initially wanted to donate the kidney to a friend, but after that friend passed away, she pursued her wish to be an organ donor, Johns Hopkins said.

Before this transplant operation, doctors had believed it was too risky to leave an HIV-positive patient with only one kidney.

The decision to move forward with the transplant highlights the confidence scientists have in current anti-retroviral medication, which allows those with HIV to lead normal, productive lives.

Thousands of people die each year in the United States awaiting organ transplants.

Dorry Segev, an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says about 500-600 HIV-positive patients could donate organs each year, benefitting about 1,000 people with the virus.

Until now, only organs removed from dead HIV-positive patients were eligible for transplants to people with the virus.

The possibility of using organs from living donors would significantly change the equation.

Johns Hopkins University Hospital received authorisation in 2016 to move ahead with the first transplant from a living donor with HIV. Surgeons had been waiting to find compatible patients.

Martinez and the recipient of her kidney will have to keep taking their anti-retroviral medication.

“When I take this recipient off the list, everyone moves up,” Martinez told The Washington Post, “whether they have HIV or not.”