People Living With HIV/AIDS in Canada Have Difficulty Obtaining Organ Transplants, Advocates Say at AIDS Conference
People living with HIV/AIDS in Canada often have difficulty obtaining organ transplants in the country, Canadian HIV/AIDS advocates said at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, Toronto's Globe and Mail reports.
Although there is no rule preventing HIV-positive people from receiving organ transplants, it is "next to impossible to get it done in Canada," Curtis Cooper, a physician at the Viral Hepatitis Clinic at Ottawa Hospital, said. HIV-positive people in several countries -- including France, Spain, the United Kingdom and the U.S. -- have been receiving organ transplants for about 10 years, the Globe and Mail reports.
Cooper said that many surgeons incorrectly believe that HIV-positive people are poor candidates for organ transplantation because transplant recipients are required to take immune-suppressing drugs. However, studies have shown that immune-suppressing drugs do not cause HIV to progress, according to the Globe and Mail. Cooper added that the majority of liver transplants in Canada are performed on people living with hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Many of those with hepatitis B or C also are HIV-positive. "I'm not asking for special access for those who are coinfected [with HIV and hepatitis], just fairness in access," Cooper said.
Louise Binder, chair of the Canadian Treatment Action Council, said physicians are discriminating against HIV-positive people based on "specious arguments," such as a shortage of organs or concerns that surgeons will contract HIV during surgery. "It's true that organs for transplant are in short supply, but, nonetheless, those with HIV, [hepatitis] B or C can be equally good candidates," Binder said.
She added that concerns that HIV could be transmitted during surgery are invalid because surgeons take precautions with all patients and HIV-positive people undergoing surgery likely would be nearly noninfectious because of antiretroviral drugs. In addition, surgeons regularly operate on people with hepatitis, which is more infectious than HIV, Binder said.
According to the Globe and Mail, about 58,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Canada, about one-third of whom also have hepatitis. Cooper estimated that about 50 of those people coinfected with HIV and hepatitis would require liver transplants, and even fewer would require kidney transplants (Picard, Globe and Mail, 8/6).
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