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June 24, 2017

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AIDS patients may be allowed to donate organs for transplant

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Organ donations and transplants from HIV/AIDS patients may become more widely available in Taiwan in the near future as the recent meeting between the Ministry of Health and Welfare chief (MHW) and the Taiwan Organ Registry and Sharing Center (TORSC, 財團法人器官捐贈移植中心) leaned toward qualifying those with HIV/AIDS as acceptable organ donors and recipients.

"If we want to save more lives, we need more flexible regulations," said Lee Po-chang (李伯璋), the chairman of TORSC. He also drew attention to the recent incidents of organ donation by a person with HIV/AIDS at National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH), saying that five people received organs from a man infected with HIV/AIDS and none of them have become infected with the virus, showing that it is possible for AIDS patients to be successful organ donors.

Although Lee feels optimistic about the safety of this type of organ transplantation, he stressed that doctors must communicate the facts and details to recipients so they can properly consider if they want to receive the organs.

In addition, Chen Chao-long (陳肇隆), a liver transplant specialist and superintendent of Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (高雄長庚醫院), pointed out that there were successful organ transplants from people with HIV/AIDS in the United States and other countries two decades ago. Chen said that he would be willing to carry out such transplants if regulations are changed in the future.

However, Wang Shoei-shen (王水深), cardiac transplant specialist and attending physician at NTUH, expressed concerns over this issue, saying that if regulations are changed without due consideration, it may lead to panic among patients who are waiting for transplant surgery.

Hong Fang-ming (洪芳明) of the Organ Transplantation Committee at Far Eastern Memorial Hospital (亞東紀念醫院) said that this issue was discussed in the committee a month ago. Representatives from various hospitals consider this to be a major issue that needs to be deliberated more fully before making any final decisions.

As the MHW considers changing organ transplant regulations, organizations representing the rights of people with HIV/AIDS expressed that those with the condition should have the medical rights they deserve.

"AIDS is no longer a death sentence," said Hsu Sen-chieh (徐森杰), secretary-general of Taiwan Lourdes Association (露德協會), a nonprofit organization that helps people with HIV/AIDS in Taiwan.

"They should not be restricted from being a donor or recipient," he continued.

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