In what must have been a gut-wrenching decision, doctors and a mother in South Africa made the bold move to donate part of the mother’s liver to her critically ill child - even though the mother is HIV positive and the child was HIV negative. The decision has raised a lot of eyebrows considering that the organ donated was infected with a potentially fatal illness.
Especially since the little boy will have to take immune-suppressant drugs to keep from rejecting the organ, which may reduce his own body’s ability to fight the development of full-blown AIDS.
But, for the mother who was willing to do anything to save her child, the decision was a no-brainer. Because the child was going to die anyway, doctors decided that it would be worth the risk, and the mother went along with it whole-heartedly.
According to People, “The transplant team faced the dilemma of saving the child’s life whilst at the same time knowing that the child might end up HIV-positive because of this decision,” the team from the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Johannesburg said, according to the Associated Press.
“Both the mother and child have recovered from the 2017 transplant, but do not yet know if the child contracted HIV, reported the transplant team at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Johannesburg. They gave the child medication to prevent the transfer of HIV before the transplant, but it will take time to see if it worked.”
Because there were no healthy donors available to save her son, the mother approached doctors about possibly donating part of her own liver. She had undergone tests and she was a match. The only roadblock to the move would be her HIV status. "She was taking antiretroviral drugs to target her HIV, but they said there was a significant risk to the child."
Considering all the factors, including the child's life-expectancy without the operation, doctor's reluctantly agreed. But not without concerns. And they have a contingency plan if the worst does happen. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious diseases chief at the U.S. National Institutes of Health and a leading HIV expert told the Associated Press.
"If the child does develop HIV, he would be able to “lead a relatively normal life” thanks to improved medications." the doctor added, "The child would need just one pill a day to protect [him/herself]"
However, Dr. Fauci cautions other people who may be tempted to undergo such a risky procedure.
“If it is a choice between death and living reasonably well with a treatable infection, I think they made a quite reasonable choice,” Fauci said but added that this isn’t true for all patients. “Everything has to be on a case-by-case basis.”