Doctors in New York performed the first heart transplant operation on an HIV-positive donor

NYC Doctors Perform First Heart Transplant From HIV-Positive Donor – Discovery Hopes Help End America’s Massive Heart Donor Shortage

  • The first HIV-positive heart transplant was performed this spring in the Bronx, New York
  • The unnamed patient is in his 60s and received a new kidney from the same donor
  • Until 2013, these types of operations were banned and can still only be performed for research purposes.
  • Advocates hope restrictions on HIV-positive organ donors will be lifted

Doctors in New York performed the first heart transplant on an HIV-positive person.

Doctors at Montefiore Health in the Bronx, New York, announced this week that an unnamed woman in her 60s with advanced heart failure received both a heart and kidney transplant from the same HIV-positive donor in the spring. The woman herself is infected with HIV.

Transplantation of organs from HIV-positive donors was prohibited in the United States until 2013. Now they are allowed as part of a study of how the body responds to new organs.

With more than 100,000 Americans waiting for a new organ — and more than a dozen people on that list die every day — doctors are hoping that a little expansion of the donor pool could save even more lives. Matching HIV-positive patients with other HIV-positive donors allows for more efficient use of other resources.

Doctors in New York performed the first heart transplant on an HIV-positive person. An unnamed woman in her 60s with heart failure received a heart and kidney transplant from the same donor (photograph)

‘This is something that has not been done before. It’s part of a broader effort to use organs that have not been used in history, Dr. David Klassen, medical officer of the United Network for Organ Allocation, told


Until 1996, HIV was a death sentence. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) was then administered to suppress the virus. Now a person can live as long as anyone else, even if they have HIV.

Medications have also been developed to reduce an HIV-negative person’s risk of contracting the virus by 99%.

In recent years, research has shown that ART can suppress HIV to the point where the virus is not transmitted to sexual partners.

This has spurred a movement to decriminalize HIV infection: it leaves the victim on life-long, expensive medication, but it doesn’t mean certain death.

Here’s more information about new life-saving and preventative drugs:

1. Medicines for HIV-positive people

This suppresses their viral load, so they don’t get infected

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) was introduced in 1996.

The drug, a triple combination, has transformed HIV from a fatal diagnosis to a manageable chronic condition.

It suppresses the virus, preventing the body from becoming resistant to infections and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

After six months of religiously taking the daily pill, it suppressed the virus to an undetectable level.

According to a decade of research by the National Institutes of Health, once a person’s viral load is undetectable, they cannot transmit HIV to anyone else.

Public health authorities around the world now recognize that U = U (undetectable equals uninfected).

The demand for new organs always exceeds the available supply worldwide. As of Friday afternoon, 106,023 Americans were waiting for organ donation, according to official figures.

By comparison, only about 40,000 transplants are performed each year. This results in many people dying while waiting for a new organ – and the list of potential recipients is also growing steadily.

Heart transplants are especially difficult to find. Recipients must hope for a suitable donor whose cause of death is not heart damage.

It made doctors at Montefiore — one of only 25 hospitals in America authorized to perform the operation — decide to offer the HIV-positive woman a long-awaited transplant.

“He was waiting for a long time and we thought why not talk to the patient about it? And he was really good and accepted the risks and benefits and agreed,” Dr. Omar Saeed, a cardiologist at Montefiore, told the Bronx Times.

His four-hour operation was a success, and after five weeks in the hospital, he continues to recover at home.

It took some time and political will to get to this point. During the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, organ donation was banned from Americans living with HIV.

On the one hand, the ban protected HIV-negative people from transmitting the virus in desperation to receive an organ.

It also prevents HIV-positive recipients, for whom receiving an organ from a positive person poses no additional risk.

With the medical and technological advances made in recent years, the virus is no longer a death sentence, and HIV-positive people need these types of transplants.

A patient with HIV can take antiretroviral drugs forever, which prevents the virus from developing into AIDS, while also preventing the infection from being passed on to someone else.

“Heart transplants have always been limited,” Klassman told

“The treatment of HIV infection has changed so much over the years that what used to be a fatal disease has become a chronic disease.”

In 2013, the HOPE (HIV Organ Policy Equity) Act was passed, prohibiting HIV-positive donors and giving infected people access to essential medical treatment.

This makes it even more important to create more opportunities as HIV patients live longer and have more medical needs.

“Any effort to expand the pool of potential donors is a good thing,” he added.



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