In July, a Dallas man became the first Texan recipient of an HIV-positive to HIV-positive organ transplant at UT Southwestern’s Clements University Hospital.
The transplant is one of thousands of organ transplants performed by UTSW physicians, but this one was unique, as it is possible because of the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, which is a federal law that allows HIV positive people to be organ donors by matching them with HIV-positive recipients. Prior to the 2013 law, hospitals couldn’t take organs from HIV-positive donors.
“I had the utmost confidence in the team at UT Southwestern. I never had better treatment,” says liver recipient John Welch via release. “Everyone there is genuinely concerned and really cares about the patient.”
The law increases the number of organs that can be donated, especially for HIV positive recipients. Long wait times for organs often result in increasingly difficult conditions for potential recipients before relief can arrive. There have only been 115 other organ recipients in the law’s program, nearly all with strong recoveries.
The program is important for those with HIV, who are increasingly vulnerable populations, according to data from Dallas County. At the end of 2017, there were approximately 90,700 people living with HIV in Texas, 22,000 of which were from Dallas. Nearly half of all HIV diagnoses in 2017 were black and around 80% were male.
Dr. David Wojciechowski, medical director of the Kidney Transplantation Program and an associate professor of internal medicine and surgery led the transplant planning efforts, while the patient’s HIV status was monitored by Dr. Ricardo La Hoz, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and an associate professor of internal medicine.