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Could people living with HIV donate organs in future?

On Thursday, Wits doctors revealed details about South Africa’s first liver transplant from a mother living with HIV to her HIV negative baby who would have otherwise died.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi addresses the media at the HIV liver transplant press conference on 4 October 2018. Picture: @WitsUniversity/Twitter.

JOHANNESBURG - Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says government is looking into amending the country's policy to allow HIV-positive people to possibly donate organs.

On Thursday, Wits doctors revealed details about South Africa’s first liver transplant from a mother living with HIV to her HIV negative baby who would have otherwise died.

The minister says South Africa has the world's largest HIV treatment programme and the use of HIV donors could help ease the chronic shortage of viable organs.

While the procedure is not illegal, it is ethically frowned upon in the medical fraternity.

Motsoaledi says amending the policy is just a theory at the moment.

“If you are HIV positive can we allow you to donate a kidney to somebody? I ask the same thing about the heart. It’s the beginning of a debate about a new policy approach, but it’s still very early on.”

‘CHANCE TO LIVE’

Doctors at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre say there's no guarantee that a baby did not contract the virus.

Dr Jean Botha, who performed the transplant believed to be the first of its kind, says it’s the best chance the critically ill child had to stay alive.

“Even if the child develops HIV afterwards, we’ve given this child the opportunity to live a normal, healthy childhood.”

Specialist Francesca Conradie says they may have to stop the ARVs to check if the child is HIV negative. But she says this is not necessary yet.

“We are in uncharted waters. The child is tolerating the medication very well.”

Doctors say the family has asked to remain anonymous and wants the gender of the child to be withheld.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)