The University Malaya Medical Centre in Malaysia successfully performed the country’s first kidney transplant on an HIV-positive patient. Kidney transplants on HIV-positive patients have been performed since the early 2000s in the U.S.
The man, in his 50s, has lived with HIV for over two decades and was suffering from kidney failure. According to Malaysian outlet Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy, he had undergone peritoneal dialysis for the management of the condition, but the dialysis continually posed a challenge.
The transplant, successfully completed last year, came from the man’s wife, who’s an HIV-negative donor. Both patients wish to remain anonymous.
Medical experts at the Klang Valley university hospital hailed the transplant as a “game changer” for Malaysia, a country that historically struggles with stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive people.
“If people with HIV on treatment are living normal lifespans, there is no reason why they can’t be offered the same standard of care offered to people who do not have HIV,” said Dr. Raja Iskandar Shah Raja Azwa, infectious disease consultant at UMMC.
The surgical team, according to Dr. Shanggar Kuppusamy, followed the standard protocol for a renal transplant and employed universal precautions to minimize the risk of infection.
“We do not discriminate against patients based on their background or infectious status,” said Dr. Kuppusamy. “We treat everyone with the same level of care and attention, regardless of their circumstances. We performed a surgery on a patient with Hepatitis C just last week.”
The patient and donor went through a rigorous six-month series of tests in 2022 prior to the procedure, which was double the time for the normal three-month process.
“If we can show that HIV-positive patients can achieve the same outcomes as other patients, there shouldn’t be a different policy in terms of organ transplantation for them,” said Dr. Lim Too Kun, Head of Renal Division at UMMC. “This is the message we want to convey.”