California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on May 27 that makes it legal for an HIV-positive donor to donate organs for transplant to HIV-positive patients.
Prior to the new bill's signing, the medical procedure was deemed a crime that comes with six-year imprisonment regardless of any circumstance. This meant that HIV-positive individuals couldn't donate blood or life-saving organs to patients already afflicted with the disease.
The new legislature, Senate Bill 1408, now ensures that doctors who conduct the procedures will not be penalized by the state Medical Board. The new law immediately takes effect and provides the chance for HIV-positive donors who previously couldn't make the donations to fellow HIV-positive patients.
"We now have the green light and we can start doing transplants using HIV-positive donors. Next week, we will start screening the list. We have a few people we know about who are anxious to move forward," said transplant surgeon Peter Stock from the University of California, San Francisco.
Earlier, Stock came across a huge barrier when he was preparing an HIV-positive patient for a partial liver transplant. The donor was also HIV-positive but is well enough to donate a part of his liver. During this time, the procedure still wasn't legal in California.
"I am deeply concerned for these patients because their health is failing, and I am concerned that, by the time the Legislature is able to act in the ordinary course, the patients will be unable to receive a transplant due to deterioration or unavailability of a donor," wrote Stock in a letter to the legislators.
When President Barack Obama signed the Hope Act in 2013, the federal government has allowed the transplant procedures between HIV-positive patients and HIV-positive donors. The Hope Act revoked the 1988 ban on organ donation from people who tested positive for HIV across the United States.
In March, Johns Hopkins University completed the first organ transplant between HIV-positive patient and HIV-positive donor. However, despite the federal law, several states, which then included California, still considered the medical procedure a crime.
California Senator Ben Allen shared that right now, there is a felony linked to such donation. However, with the new legislature in place, the Senate Bill 1408 can "save a life this month."
Photo: Nicolas Raymond | Flickr