It's estimated that 18 people die each day in the U.S. waiting for an organ donation. Organ failure is a real possibility for those who live with HIV, but the president recently signed a bill into law that may help widen the donor pool. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
A new law has lifted the 1984 ban on HIV-infected organ transplants, allowing those organs to be used by other HIV-infected people. As a result, it's estimated that 500 organs a year could be made available.
It's welcome news to the more than 120,000 Americans waiting for transplants.
"Those 500 people would be waiting for organs from non-HIV positive patients, and so that sort of frees up those organs for other patients," says Dr. David Cohen, the kidney and pancreas transplant medical director at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia University.
Cohen helped guide the bill through Congress as chair of the American Society of Transplantation's public policy committee. The law requires that transplant patients agree to participate in clinical research.
"This is all going to be done under a rubric of a study of research to know are there any restrictions that should be applied to how this is practiced," Cohen says.
Up until now, it's been illegal to even study its effectiveness, so it's still unknown how safe it is.
"There's concern that a different strain of HIV could be an issue," Cohen says.
Dr. Vera Antonios is an infectious disease specialist who treats a wide range of HIV-infected clients at Harlem United. She says that her patients have been living longer lives due to advances in treatment.
"The longer you live, the possibilities of having complications from the medications themselves [increases]," Antonios says.
That could possibly lead to organ failure, along with complications from other diseases, which is common among people who are HIV-positive.
"On the long term, people will have more kidney disease or liver disease," Antonios says.
Only 28,000 received organs in 2012. Both doctors say that accessing HIV-infected organs was the next logical move in trying to meet a growing need.
"It 's progressive step forward in terms of recognizing the right to all the benefits of what our health care system can provide," Cohen says.
A plan on how to conduct research must be developed within the next two years.