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California Legislature Approves Bill Allowing Organ Transplant Between HIV-Infected Patients

May 31, 2016 12:45 AM EDT

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill last May 27 repealing the previous ban of organ transplant from a HIV-positive donor to a HIV-positive patient.

Previously, organ donation from donors infected with HIV was illegal in California and was punishable by up to six years imprisonment regardless of the circumstances.

The new bill, Senate Bill 1408, unanimously passed the legislature last Friday with 67-0 vote in the Assembly and 37-0 vote in the state Senate. Under the new bill, doctors who conducted an organ transplant between HIV-infected patients will not be held accountable and will not be penalized by the state Medical Board. The bill will also allow people with HIV to donate organs to help out other HIV patients.

There are 65 patients with HIV waiting for Kidney and Liver transplant in the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, one of four U.S. hospitals authorized to transplant HIV-infected organs.

"There are so many desperate people out there waiting for organs," said Dr. Peter Stock, a transplant surgeon at UCSF, in a report from Fox News. "The donor shortage is such a problem. Literally, we lose people every week."

Under the new bill, HIV patients who are willing to receive an organ transplant from HIV-positive donor can reduce the wait time from many years to six months or lesser.

According to United Network for Organ Sharing, there are more than 120,000 people waiting for lifesaving transplant in the United States. 21,888 of those are in California. An average of 22 people dies each day while waiting for a transplant.

The organ transplant between HIV patients was allowed in the United States, with exemption of some states, since 2013 under the Hope Act signed by the outgoing president Barack Obama. The Hope Act negates the previous 1988 U.S. ban on organ donation from HIV-positive people.

With the guidelines for transplants from HIV-positive donors finalized last year, surgeons began performing the procedure this year.

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