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Illinois Champions Approval of HIV-Positive Organ Transplants

PHOTO: The late Representative Larry McKeon championed legislation in Illinois that paved the way for the approval of organ transplants between HIV positive individuals. A similar federal law is awaiting the President's signature. Photo courtesy of Illinois General Assembly.
PHOTO: The late Representative Larry McKeon championed legislation in Illinois that paved the way for the approval of organ transplants between HIV positive individuals. A similar federal law is awaiting the President's signature. Photo courtesy of Illinois General Assembly.
November 15, 2013

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Advocates in Illinois are applauding legislation approved in Washington this week that could change the lives of thousands of people living with HIV. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the HOPE Act, which will allow organs from HIV-positive individuals to be donated to those who are also HIV-positive.

According to John Peller, vice president of policy at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, it's a tremendous victory.

"There are perfectly healthy organs that come from people with HIV who die, and it just makes sense to allow people living with HIV a chance at a second life by getting an organ transplant from somebody else who is HIV positive."

The measure cleared the Senate earlier this year and now awaits President Obama's signature. Of the estimated 118,000 Americans on the waiting list of the Organ Transplant and Procurement Network, 1,000 are living with HIV.

Peller said Illinois is actually a pioneer in bringing large-scale attention to the issue.

"Back in 2004, the late Representative Larry McKeon passed legislation that's still on the books in Illinois that allows individuals who are HIV-positive to donate organs to other individuals who are HIV-positive."

Then-Governor Rod Blagojevich signed the measure into law, but it was never implemented because of federal regulations. McKeon, who died from a stroke in 2008 while working in Springfield, was Illinois' first openly gay, openly HIV-positive state representative.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL