Atlanta woman makes history in 1st HIV positive organ transplant

ATLANTA — An Atlanta woman has become the first ever living HIV positive American to donate an organ to another person also living with HIV.

It isn’t everyday that you get the opportunity to make history, but that’s exactly what Nina Martinez did by donating her kidney.

“I just wanted that gratification of touching one life and I know that I’ve touched many, and it feels great,” Nina Martinez told CBS46 News.

Martinez is an HIV positive American. She contracted the disease as an infant through a blood transfusion. She said last year a friend who was also HIV positive sent out a call for help. He was dying and in need of kidney.

“So I did an internet search and found out that John Hopkins was the first center to be approved for living HIV donation and immediately reached out,” Martinez explained.

She said she began a nearly nine month long evaluation process to determine if she was an eligible donor. She said unfortunately during that time her friend’s kidney failed and soon after he died.

But she didn’t allow that outcome to change her quest to help someone in need.

“I thought what a waste of medical spending it would be if I didn’t finish this to try to help somebody out, and I’m sure it’s what my friend would have wanted,” Martinez said.

So she continued the testing while doctors at John Hopkins found another HIV positive patient on the recipient list. On March 25th Martinez went under the knife and became the first ever person living with HIV in thew U.S. to donate an organ to another HIV positive person. It’s an action that doctors believe will save countless lives.

“By virtue of helping out people living with HIV on the wait list with these organs everybody moves up the wait list regardless of HIV status,” Martinez explained.

A bill passed in 2013 making the lifesaving transplants legal. However, for years doctors only preformed transplants from deceased HIV positive Americans to living recipients. Thanks to Martinez’s successful operation that’s now all changed.

Martinez said she hopes her organ donation inspires others to do the same, regardless of HIV status.

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