After more than six years of advocating for updated legislation, Dorry L. Segev performed a historic surgery this month: transplanting a liver and kidney from an HIV-positive donor to an HIV-positive recipient.
Segev, an associate professor of surgery and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Medical School, was quoted in the Baltimore Sun saying that such a procedure had support from the medical community, but it has long been prohibited by the federal government.
"It wasn't a medical issue. It was entirely legal," she told the Sun.
In 1984, the U.S. government passed the National Organ Transplant Act, a law that specifically barred HIV-positive people from organ donation. Since then, there have been major advancements in how doctors treat HIV, as well as AIDS.
In 2011, Segev wrote in an article in the American Journal of Transplantation that about 1,000 lives could be saved annually if Congress drafted new legislation. In 2013, Congress passed the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, a bipartisan bill.
HIV patients are often in need of organ donations, due to complications from the virus. They often develop hepatitis, a disease that can severely damage the liver. Some also suffer from hypertension or diabetes, prompting the need for a new kidney.
Segev's team was the first to be approved to perform the surgery. The recipients (one received the kidney and another received the liver) are recovering and one has already been discharged from the hospital.
Watch More: Will We Ever Cure HIV?