New York City Department of Health investigators say it happened in 2009 – the first transmission of HIV from a live organ donor in the country since screening for the AIDS virus began more than 25 years ago.
And, they say it happened even though the hospital followed stringent pre-screening guidelines. While Mt. Sinai Medical Center is not where this occurred, NY1 asked the director of its abdominal organ transplant institute what might have gone so wrong.
"We have to recognize about those tests that there are windows. And, by windows, we mean you can be infected yet still test negative until the test converts," explains Dr. Sandy Florman of Mr. Sinai. "The screening test for HIV is an antibody test and the window is about 10 weeks, so there is a period of 10 weeks from when the individual can be infected but the antibody does not convert and show up as positive on the test."
The New York State Health Department is now recommending transplant centers do a second round of tests on living donors about a week before surgery with more rapid testing methods. They are also urging donors not to engage in high-risk behaviors prior to transplant.
There are already concerns in the transplant community that anything that puts the safety of organ donation in question is bad for everyone.