For years, it's been thought that people living with HIV wouldn't be good candidates to receive a new kidney.
But a new study finds that these patients actually have better outcomes than those infected with hepatitis C, or patients infected with both viruses.
"These findings show that HIV patients are being unfairly perceived to have worse kidney transplant outcomes than non-infected groups, and as a result, they often have to wait the longest for transplants and there are fewer living donors," study author Dr. Deirdre Sawinski, of University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, said in a university news release.
Sawinski's team examined data from more than 124,000 adults who received kidney transplants between 1996 and 2013. The study found a three-year survival rate of 89 percent for those with HIV -- nearly the same as the 90 percent survival seen among uninfected patients.
However, survival rates were lower -- 84 percent -- for those with hepatitis C, and 73 percent for those infected with both HIV and hepatitis C, according to the study published online recently in the journal Kidney International.
"Our hope is that these study findings result in greater access to transplantation for HIV patients," said Sawinski, who is assistant professor in the renal, electrolyte and hypertension division at the university.
She also hopes the findings will spur "the kidney transplant community to focus on eradicating hepatitis C in transplant patients -- either pre-transplant or if that's not possible, immediately post-transplant -- to ensure better outcomes for these patients."
Currently, HIV patients must have an undetectable viral load to receive a kidney transplant, but the same requirement does not apply to hepatitis C patients, the researchers explained.
The study authors said that less than 25 percent of transplant centers in the United States offer kidney transplants to HIV patients. Nationwide, fewer kidney transplants are done in people with HIV than those with hepatitis C.
-- Robert Preidt