Back to Journals » Medicolegal and Bioethics » Volume 8

Consenting to HIV-positive organ donation in the USA: legal and ethical considerations in comparison with a South African context

Authors Muller E

Received 10 October 2017

Accepted for publication 10 November 2017

Published 21 December 2017 Volume 2018:8 Pages 1—10


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Bethany Spielman

Elmi Muller

Department of Surgery, University of Cape Town, Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa

Abstract: Since 2008, 43 HIV positive-to-positive transplants have been performed in Cape Town, South Africa. The ethical decision to utilize HIV-positive donors had been informed by a very unique clinical situation in South Africa. South African transplant recipients are generally young, black patients from low socioeconomic groups where treatment options for their end-stage renal disease are limited. Dialysis is not freely available in the country and strict admission criteria exist to access this treatment option. Because South African patients are competing for scarce resources, with many HIV-positive as well as negative patients unable to access dialysis treatment, a transplant with an HIV-positive organ is an acceptable treatment option to many HIV-positive patients in this country. Furthermore, South African HIV-positive patients are generally young and often have low rates of comorbid disease making them ideal transplant candidates. In the USA, HIV-positive patients are generally older and dialysis is freely available to them. Transplantation with HIV-negative organs as well as dialysis are treatment options available to USA-based HIV-positive patients – an important difference to South African patients. Finally, the HIV-positive deceased donors in South Africa are often young trauma victims where HIV is diagnosed at the time of death and the patient is naïve to antiretroviral therapy (ART). In general, South Africa has very low ART resistance rates and a fairly uniform subtype C HIV in the country. This means that using a deceased donor who had been exposed to ART before has a different clinical risk than in the USA, where most donors had been treated with ART and seldom are trauma victims. The author debates in this article how this unique scenario makes use of HIV-positive donors in the USA differently in comparison with South Africa.

Keywords: HIV positive, transplantation, deceased donation, HIV positive-to-positive

Creative Commons License This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License. By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms.

Download Article [PDF]  View Full Text [HTML][Machine readable]