It’s been over a year since an advisory panel made its recommendation

A letter signed by 25 members of Congress has been sent to Health and Human Services secretary Xavier Becerra, calling on him to update federal policy on organ transplants among people living with HIV.

The HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act was signed into law in November 2013. “Within four years of enactment, and annually thereafter,” the letter said, “the Secretary of Health and Human Services is required by this law to ‘review the results of scientific research in conjunction with the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network [OPTN]…’ to determine whether organ transplants between people living with HIV should remain restricted to clinical research.”

The letter also noted that, “People living with HIV in the South are nearly twice as likely to die while on the organ transplant wait list.”

In November 2022, the HHS Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability (ACBTSA) voted to expand access of organ transplants of kidneys and livers among people living with HIV, seven years after research guidelines had been published. Since 2015, a reported 431 HIV-to-HIV organ transplants have been performed. The ACBTSA recommendations to revise organ transplant policy for PLWH were sent to assistant health secretary Adm. Rachel L. Levine, MD, in January 2023 and have been waiting for Becerra’s approval since then.

“We encourage you to instruct the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network to implement a new standard of clinical care to increase the number of kidneys and livers for transplantation, reduce the transplant wait time for people living with HIV, and thus reduce the transplant wait time for everyone else waiting on a life-preserving transplant,” the letter said. “With expanded donor eligibility, advances in HIV treatment, and the transplantation science amassed through HOPE Act clinical research to date, we can and should eliminate barriers to HIV-to-HIV transplantation. This new standard of care will shorten transplant waiting lists, reduce wasted organs, and eliminate the unacceptable and continued deaths of people who are diagnosed with HIV and end-stage organ disease.”

U.S. Representatives Nikema Williams (Georgia, Dist. 5) and Katie Porter (California, Dist. 47) led 22 other members of Congress, along with the congressional delegate from the District of Columbia—all Democrats—in sending the letter. READ THE LETTER here.