An Exception to the Rule or a Rule for the Exception? The Potential of Using HIV-Positive Donors in Canada

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Selected human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients with end organ failure can safely receive an organ transplant from an HIV uninfected donor. Recent demonstration of the short term safety of organ transplantation between HIV-infected persons prompted a change in US American law to allow such transplantations. Prompted by the recent completion of the first organ transplantation between HIV-infected persons in Canada, we review Canadian law regarding the use of organs from HIV-infected donors, estimate the number of potential HIV-infected donors in Canada, and critically review considerations related to advancing organ transplantation from HIV-infected donors in Canada. Existing legislation allows organ transplantation from an HIV-infected donor under exceptional medical circumstances and therefore no change in legislation is required to increase utilization of organs from HIV-infected donors for transplantation in Canada. Among 335,793 hospital deaths between 2005 and 2009 in Canadian provinces excluding Quebec, 39 potential HIV-infected donors were identified. The actual number of HIV potential donors is estimated to be approximately 60% lower (3-5 potential donor per year), if the absence of viremia is required for transplantation. Although offering all Canadians the opportunity to donate organs is a laudable goal, further research to understand the need for HIV-positive donors and the willingness of HIV-positive recipients to accept organs from HIV-positive donors is needed to inform future policy regarding organ donation from HIV-infected persons in Canada.

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