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Michigan's HOPE Act would allow people with HIV to donate organs to others with the disease

Posted at 8:37 PM, Dec 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-07 20:37:42-05

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan's HOPE Act, which would allow HIV positive people to donate organs to others with HIV, is near the finish line.

It's already been approved by the state House and Senate and is only awaiting a signature from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

In years past, organ donations from people with HIV were sent out of state.

“In 2015, there was federal legislation passed called the Hope Act that allowed transplant hospitals to begin transplanting HIV positive organs into HIV positive recipients," said Dorrie Dils, CEO of Gift of Life Michigan, an organization that helps to procure organs for those in need of a transplant. . "And so that's been happening in the United States for the last six years.”

“Here in Michigan, though, we've had a law that prevents HIV positive transplants from happening," Dils said.

Although Dils says the need for HIV positive organs in Michigan is fairly low, this new legislation will bring Michigan up-to-date with 19 other states that have reversed their bans on HIV positive organs.

"The truth is the impact is fairly small. I mean, not that many people have HIV. And then, you know, not that many of them can go on to be organ donors," she said. "But more importantly, it allows people with HIV positive infections to know that they can be donors and to sign up in the donor registry."

State Rep. Felicia Brabec, the Pittsfield Township Democrat who sponsored the bill, said her experience as a social worker in the 1990s inspired her to push the legislation.

“You're saving lives. We're lifting up folks who are HIV positive, you know, and it just really resonated with me personally as well," Brabec said. "And so it was, it just felt like something that we should be able to easily do and offer in our state for our residents.”

For the approximately 17,000 people living with HIV in the state of Michigan, the change in legislation means they have a new way to make a positive impact.

“Oftentimes, for the individual that's passed, it's nice for the family to have that sense of comfort. And this is something that families couldn't have had that now they'd be able to share," said Kristina Schmidgall, the executive director of the Lansing Area AIDS Network.

Advocates say the passage of the bill is about more than organ donations. It signals acceptance for those living with HIV after years being barred from donating.

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