Today I am going to be looking at donated organs that are HIV positive. Organ donation has long been a campaign which hospitals constantly run to enable them to acquire organs with which to help those who have some chronic disease, but more and more health professionals are coming across donated organs which are actually testing positive for an HIV infection because basically the donor or their families did not realise that they had this particular infection.

HIV Positive

Does an organ donor have to be tested for diseases such as STIs?

With this in mind, it is being discussed that if we have a potential donor who knows that they will pass away in the next few weeks, is being insensitive to them if we ask to run tests on them to make sure they carry no hidden disease or viruses especially ones such as the HIV virus? 

This is something that does need to be handled with the greatest sensitivity or we will once again see a fall in numbers of actual good donations being made that do save people’s lives. I have a friend who was lucky enough to be matched for a heart transplant and had a good outcome, even though they as with any other donor-recipient will have to take a multitude of drugs probably for the rest of their lives for it to remain a viable transplant which improves their lives greatly. I personally feel that if we replace an ailing organ we should if we can delve quite deep into the donors’ health background to make sure that they have or have not got any viruses or infections which would only add to this person’s health if they were to receive a defective organ donation which was HIV positive. 

It is always better to test first before commencing the operation

This is why the way that donor organs are procured now has to change greatly, imagine as a transplant surgeon that a surgical team has very carefully taken out organs from a person’s body who seemed in good health that did not realise they had this HIV infection until the organ was actually harvested and the tests on it began. This would cause a major upset at this stage as that surgical team would have wasted man hours that could have been put to use elsewhere helping another sick person. And sometimes a recipient of that donated organ is informed whilst they are doing the preliminary tests to give them enough travel time for the organ to still be transplanted viable within the time frame that exists.

No one who is living their last few days wants to be subjected to a high level of testing because they want to donate but I do believe that the governing body of our health service now needs to look at changing the way we get our donor organs and how we actually test a person before we even think about opening them up to actually harvest the organ.

Perhaps looking at bringing in an HIV virus test (or all STD testing), on the sample of blood they use to match the organ to a recipient could be one way of simplifying the whole process for our future years of organ donation.