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Gift of Life Michigan applauds Michigan House for HOPE Act approval

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The Michigan House of Representatives recently brought hope to patients living with HIV with a unanimous approval of the HOPE Act. Now, the bill goes to the Michigan Senate. State Rep. Felica Brabec sponsored the HOPE Act in the Michigan House of Representatives.

State Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Township) introduced the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act, which will allow organs from potential donors with HIV to be transplanted into HIV-positive patients. Currently, the law prohibits life-saving organs from HIV-positive donors to be used to save the lives of HIV-positive patients here in Michigan. Instead, these vital organs recovered by Gift of Life Michigan are sent to out-of-state patients.

“Because of outdated language in the Health Code, we must send these organs out of state instead of saving patients in Michigan,” said Dorrie Dils, CEO of Gift of Life Michigan, the state’s federally designated organ and tissue recovery program. “The HOPE Act passed in the House of Representatives today would remove that restriction. It would allow these organs to benefit Michigan patients, bring the state in line with federal law, increase efficiency and give hope to residents waiting for these life-saving gifts. I urge the Michigan Senate to take this bill up and pass it as soon as possible.”

“We are so fortunate to live in a state that is home to talented medical researchers and transplant teams who work every day to improve the science of saving lives through organ donation,” said Brabec, who serves on the Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee. “This bill simply brings the state in line with federal law and frees up additional organs for Michiganders.”

The HOPE Act was enacted nationally in 2015, but efforts to enact it here in Michigan have been unsuccessful. Since 2015, 21 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the legislation. Transplants between HIV-positive donors and HIV-positive patients take place at 35 hospitals and transplant centers across the country.

Felix Sirls, a long-time HIV and substance abuse counselor, said he welcomes the legislation and hopes it will help break down the stigmas that people living with HIV still face today.

“The HOPE Act is really wonderful. People who are positive can now be donors and they were not able to donate before,” said Sirls, who worked as a counselor for more than 30 years and was himself diagnosed with HIV in 1984. “It’s really great, but so few people know about it.”

The Gift of Life Michigan Governing Board and Advisory Board – which includes representatives of the state’s nine organ transplant programs – endorse this effort to boost the number of organs for transplant for their patients, as well.

“Every time someone in our state receives a life-saving transplant, that means one less person is waiting and there is more hope for those still in need,” said Dils. “I urge the legislature to pass this measure as soon as possible.”

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