End-stage liver disease is common in HIV-infected (HIV+) individuals due to co-infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Liver transplant (LT) in HIV+ individuals provides a clear survival benefit and outcomes will improve further with direct-acting antivirals for HCV. There is already a severe organ shortage, with long waiting times, and a higher waitlist mortality for HIV+ individuals in particular, and the need for LT in HIV+ individuals is expected to grow. Organs from HIV+ deceased donors (HIV D+) are a unique resource for HIV+ transplant candidates. By expanding the donor pool, use of organs from HIV D+ could have a significant public health impact and decrease wait times for all individuals on the waitlist. This motivated the Congressional HOPE (HIV Organ Policy Equity) Act which now allows HIV D+ transplants for HIV+ recipients (R+) under research protocols. Potential risks of HIV D+/R+ transplants include complications related to donor-to-recipient HIV superinfection (HIV-SI), increased organ rejection rates, and accelerated liver fibrosis and/or steatosis after transplant due to viral hepatitis or metabolic liver disease. Experience with HIV D+ LT is extremely limited with only 2 international cases reported and 5 cases in the US performed by our group within a HOPE pilot study. In order to determine if HIV D+ liver transplantation is safe and effective, a prospective multicenter trial is needed. The proposed HOPE in Action Liver Trial will compare outcomes between HIV+ recipients of HIV+ versus HIV- donor livers, enrolling 40 individuals in each group over 3 years at 16 transplant centers.
Aim 1 will compare difference in time to major transplant-related and HIV-related complications between the two arms.
Aim 2 will compare the incidence of liver disease including HCV- and HBV-related fibrosis and liver steatosis. Mechanistic studies in Aim 3 will characterize HIV-SI in blood and in Aim 4 will characterize both the composition and changes in size of long-lived HIV reservoirs in blood, lymph nodes, and liver longitudinally. A comprehensive digital pathologic repository and a tissue biorepository will be created. We have planned and designed the trial with NIAID-sponsored project team (R34AI23023) and we have assembled a team of experts in Transplant Surgery, HIV/Infectious Diseases, Hepatology, Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Pathology, and Virology. The trial will benefit from existing studies and infrastructure established by our group, including a study of HIV D+ nationally in collaboration with the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (R01AI120938) and a Multicenter HOPE in Action Kidney Trial (U01AI134591). In summary, HOPE in Action: A clinical trial of HIV-to-HIV deceased donor liver transplantation will determine whether the use of HIV D+ for LT is safe and effective. In addition, the trial will impact not only the field of organ transplantation, but will also provide new insight into mechanisms of HIV-related liver disease, HIV superinfection, and will directly inform HIV cure research efforts.

Public Health Relevance

The HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act permits research on the use of HIV-infected (HIV+) donors for transplantation into HIV+ individuals in order to alleviate the organ shortage and save the lives of those on the organ transplant waitlist. In the proposed trial, we will study key outcomes in HIV+ recipients of HIV+ donor livers including survival, liver function, organ rejection, changes in the HIV virus and immune system, and development of resistance to HIV drugs. These studies will determine the safety of HIV+ donor liver transplant and will contribute to other areas of research including HIV-related liver disease and HIV cure.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Research Project--Cooperative Agreements (U01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZAI1)
Program Officer
Odim, Jonah
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Johns Hopkins University
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Van Pilsum Rasmussen, Sarah E; Bowring, Mary Grace; Shaffer, Ashton A et al. (2018) Knowledge, attitudes, and planned practice of HIV-positive to HIV-positive transplantation in US transplant centers. Clin Transplant 32:e13365