Fund for HIV-Positive Activist’s Liver Transplant Falls Short
Despite the creation of a $325,000 fund two weeks ago to pay for a "life-saving" liver transplant for an HIV-positive woman with hepatitis C, the money has turned out to be insufficient, the Boston Globe reports. Last month, AIDS activist Belynda Dunn received a $150,000 donation from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Neighborhood Health Plan, the HMO that had twice refused to cover the transplant costs because the surgery was considered "experimental" on HIV-positive patients, and an additional $175,000 raised by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Because the transplant's price was estimated at $250,000 at the time, it appeared that the fund had raised more than enough money for Dunn's cause. But because Dunn will use part of her brother's liver if approved for surgery, the entire procedure has become more expensive: her brother's insurance company has denied coverage for the organ donation because it is "elective." The transplant's total cost is now expected to be $500,000, including the $25,000 spent last week on Dunn's initial tests. Larry Kessler, executive director of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, where Dunn works, said that the "fanfare" of raising $325,000 in just a few days "might have conveyed the erroneous message that Dunn had enough money." For example, one anonymous donor from New Hampshire rescinded a $50,000 pledge toward the fund. But Kessler stated that the Life Fund was created to pay for other HIV-positive patients' transplants in addition to Dunn's, and hopes that the anonymous donor will renew the offer. Menino said he plans to meet with staff today to "explore fund-raising options," noting that he is "confident the money will be found." Officials at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where Dunn would receive the transplant and where she is currently receiving care, said they will decide tomorrow whether to proceed with her surgery (Vaishnav, Boston Globe, 8/6). One of the few hospitals to perform liver transplants on HIV-positive patients, UPMC has previously performed the procedure on eight such patients. The University of California-San Francisco is currently in the process of applying for an NIH grant that would lead to HIV-positive patients receiving organ transplants at a group of hospitals nationwide (Snowbeck, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.