The world’s first kidney transplant from a living HIV-positive donor to another HIV-positive person was successfully performed Monday by doctors at a Johns Hopkins University hospital.
By not having to rely solely on organs from the deceased, doctors may now have a larger number of kidneys available for transplant.
“It’s important to people who aren’t HIV-positive because every time somebody else gets a transplant and gets an organ and gets off the list, your chances get just a little bit better,” said Dr. Sander Florman, director of the Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute at Mount Sinai in New York.
Nina Martinez, 35, is the living donor. She donated her kidney to an anonymous recipient after the friend she had hoped to give it to died last fall. Martinez acquired HIV when she was 6 weeks old through a blood transfusion and was diagnosed at age 8.
In a news conference Thursday, Martinez said that even after her friend died, she wanted to carry on in honoring him by donating her kidney and making a statement.
“I wanted to show that people living with HIV were just as healthy. Someone needed that kidney, even if it was a kidney with HIV. I very simply wanted to show that I was just like anybody else,” said Martinez.
Johns Hopkins said that Martinez was being discharged Thursday from the hospital. The anonymous recipient is in stable condition and will likely be discharged in the next couple of days.
Access to HIV-positive organs became possible in 2013, and surgeries have been limited to kidneys and livers.
Dr. John Rivas, a board-certified transplant hepatologist in South Florida, commented on Thursday’s announcement:
“From a medical standpoint, this is wonderful news for HIV patients who require a kidney transplant and have been waiting for a long time. This is happening now since the medications to treat HIV are more advanced and are capable of effectively treating different strains of the HIV virus.”
“In addition, we are also capable of transplanting Hepatitis C organs to recipients who are not Hepatitis C positive because we are confident that we can eradicate hepatitis C, post-transplant,” he said.
Rivas was was one of the first transplant hepatologists who first pioneered this groundbreaking procedure.