Emory University | Woodruff Health Sciences Center
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First living HIV-positive kidney donor

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On March 25, Rollins alumna Nina Martinez became the first living HIV-positive kidney donor in the United States. Though surgeons have transplanted kidneys from deceased HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients since 2016, this was the first time it had been done in this country with a living donor. The surgery, performed at Johns Hopkins Hospital, is a step toward lifting the stigma surrounding HIV and potentially opens the door for more organ donations.

“Society perceives me, and people like me, as people who bring death,” Martinez told The Washington Post. “And I can’t figure out any better way to show that people like me can bring life.”

Martinez, a 36-year-old public health consultant, acquired HIV as a 6-week-old in 1983, when she received a blood transfusion before blood banks began testing for the virus. She and her family did not learn of her infection until she was eight.

She began considering becoming a donor in 2013, when a law was passed that allowed HIV-to-HIV transplantation. Her interest was piqued shortly afterward when she saw a Grey’s Anatomy episode depicting the first kidney transplant between a living HIV-positive donor and HIV-positive recipient. Last year she learned an HIV-positive friend needed a kidney, and she started the process of being evaluated as a potential donor. Her friend passed away before the transplant could take place, but she decided to stay on the donor list.

The recipient, who has elected to remain anonymous, and Martinez are reported to be doing fine. In April, Martinez tweeted, “True facts. Left kidney is off doing amazing things in its next life. Just you & me now, righty.”

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