LANSING, Mich. — A bill recently introduced in the Michigan House would make it possible for HIV patients to donate organs to other HIV-positive people.
Right now, Michigan law does not allow for HIV-positive patients to donate to fellow Michiganders. However, other states allow the procedure, in turn meaning that organs that are positive are transported to HIV patients out of state in need of a donor.
Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield) introduced last week the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, also known as the HOPE Act. Nineteen other states plus Washington D.C. have passed the HOPE Act. Nearby Ohio, Illinois and Indiana all allow HIV patients to donate organs.
"As Michiganders, we should want to do this and do this for our residents and their families and extend life," said Representative Brabec. "HIV is not obviously what we thought of before as a death sentence.. which is wonderful. If we can improve that even more, that's just another no-brainer to me."
The bill has received support from members of both parties, with 32 co-sponsors. Gift of Life Michigan also supports the legislation.
"Every organ donor counts; every organ transplant counts," said Dorrie Dils, CEO of Gift of Life. "It increases the pool of patients, if you will, that we can recover organs from."
If a Michigander who is HIV positive is in need of an organ transplant, they can currently receive organs from donors that are negative. If the law were to be changed, it would allow them to receive positive organs, in turn allowing negative organs to go to people who do not have HIV. It would give patients in both groups a greater chance at finding a match.
If the HOPE Act passes in Michigan, it would likely allow Gift of Life to harvest between six and nine organs per year. While it's a small number, it can make a substantial difference nationally where that number can grow into the hundreds.
"We're not going to see thousands of organs from this legislation, but it's significant enough when you add it up across the country, that it's meaningful," said Dils.
The legislation would also send the message to HIV-positive folks that they can donate and have the choice to save a life. Because laws began changing just a few years ago, many HIV-positive patients believe they can't donate and are not on the organ registry for this reason.
The bill is currently in committee, where it will be discussed before proceeding for further discussion in the legislature.