New York reports first HIV spread from live organ donor

A New York man has contracted the AIDS virus in the nation’s first case of transmission from a living organ donor since a screening test was implemented to prevent such infection, the New York State Department of Health said on Thursday.

The recipient of a live kidney transplant in a New York City hospital tested positive for the HIV virus, department spokeswoman Claudia Hutton said.

While screening was properly conducted, the donor apparently contracted the virus after the screening test but in the days before the surgery, she said.

“In the intervening time from initial testing, the donor engaged in some risky behavior and contracted HIV,” Hutton said. “The donor and the recipient are now aware of it and how it happened.”

Hutton did not specify the kind of risky behavior that led to the donor contracting HIV, but noted that it could have been unprotected sex or recreational intravenous drug use.

Screening of organ donors went into effect in 1985 at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the United States to guard against HIV transmission during a transplant. The New York case marks the first time since then that a recipient has contracted HIV from a live organ donor, Hutton said.

The name of the hospital, donor and organ recipient were withheld to protect their privacy.

In response, the state Health Department has recommended that live organ donors undergo a second round of blood tests within a 14-day period before the transplant operation. The department advises that hospitals conduct a nucleic acid test (NAT) which can detect viruses long before standard tests.

“We are also strongly advising that donors have to be cautioned to not engage in risky behaviors,” Hutton said.

More than 110,000 Americans are waiting for organ transplants, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit organization which works for the federal government to manage the nation’s organ transplant system.

The incident comes as the New York State Health Department this week launched a new advertising campaign in Buffalo and New York City targeting the spread of HIV and the stigma associated with the disease.

“We need to keep HIV prevention on the front burner because people are still dying from the disease every day in New York,” AIDS Institute Director Humberto Cruz said in a statement.

The Center for Disease Control estimates that more than 56,000 Americans become infected with HIV every year.

(Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr., editing by Barbara Goldberg and Peter Bohan)


NEW YORK - (Reuters)

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