U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs Policy Change Could Save Lives of Veterans Who Have HIV and Need Organ Transplants, Lambda Legal Says

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"The policy is backed by solid scientific data and could save hundreds of lives"
April 21, 2005

(Washington, D.C., April 21, 2005) — Lambda Legal says that a new policy in the Department of Veterans Affairs directing VA hospitals nationwide to evaluate on a case-by-case basis veterans who have HIV and need organ transplants may save hundreds of lives over the coming years.


“After working closely with officials in the department, we’re pleased that the VA has made this move–the policy is backed by solid scientific data and could save hundreds of lives,” said Jon Givner, Director of Lambda Legal’s HIV Project.


According to the policy, veterans who have HIV and are in need of an organ transplant will be “evaluated locally by a medical professional experienced in HIV care; and Veterans who are HIV-infected undergo the same pre-transplant examinations for solid organ and bone marrow transplantation as non-HIV infected transplant candidates…”


Lambda Legal first urged the VA to change its policy last year in an appeal representing Gideon Green. Green, a veteran who needed a lifesaving liver transplant, was denied a transplant evaluation by the Iowa City Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center because he had HIV. After Lambda Legal appealed, the VA eventually agreed to evaluate Green but found that he was not a good candidate for transplantation for reasons unrelated to HIV, and months later Green passed away.


In working with the department, Lambda Legal cited a range of data, including a 2002 New England Journal of Medicine article that found “no evidence of poorer survival among otherwise healthy HIV-positive patients who are receiving anti-retroviral therapy.” The article went on to say that “transplantation in HIV-positive patients should … not be considered experimental.”


In the last two years, Lambda Legal has successfully persuaded other insurance providers (including Kaiser Permanente, and a state Medicaid program) to evaluate patients with HIV for organ transplants based on the patients’ individual health status and sound scientific data.


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Lisa Hardaway 212-809-8585 x266


Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

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