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Advocacy Groups Make Progress to Ensure Equal Access to Organ Transplants for HIV-Positive Patients

November 4, 2005

Advocacy groups say they are making progress in ensuring that HIV-positive people are not denied organ transplants because of their HIV status, the AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Insurers in the past have denied coverage for transplants to HIV-positive people, and some transplant centers have been reluctant to perform procedures, preferring to save resources for "patients whose survival prospects weren't clouded by the complication of HIV," the AP/Times-Dispatch reports (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/3). However, attitudes about organ transplants for HIV-positive people have been changing since the mid-1990s, when advances in antiretroviral drug therapy began to help HIV/AIDS patients live longer, healthier lives. Antiretroviral treatment can restore patients' immune systems enough to allow them to withstand transplants and the immunosuppressing drugs that prevent the rejection of new organs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/1). "When presented with the evidence, reasonable people have a hard time coming to the conclusion that an HIV-positive person should be denied a transplant," Jon Givner, director of the HIV Project at the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said. As part of an ongoing pilot study, researchers at the University of California-San Francisco have performed more than 30 organ transplants for HIV-positive patients and found no evidence indicating such patients have a lower survival rate than HIV-negative patients. California recently became the first state to prohibit insurers from denying coverage for organ transplants based only on a patient's HIV-positive status (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/3).

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