AIDS Activist Larry Kramer Undergoes Liver Transplant; High-Profile Case Could Influence More Hospitals to Perform ProcedureLarry Kramer, writer and founder of AIDS activist groups such as Gay Men's Health Crisis and ACT UP, underwent a 12-hour liver transplant surgery on Dec. 21 at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, in what has become the "most high-profile case" of an HIV-positive patient receiving an organ transplant, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (Snowbeck, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/25). After the transplant, Kramer was listed in "serious condition," but his status was upgraded to "fair" and he was moved out of the intensive care unit five days after the operation (Baltimore Sun, 12/27). By Friday, Kramer was being "prepped for release" from the hospital for as early as this week (Ness, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/30).
Are Tides Turning?
In the past, patients with HIV were "ruled out" for transplants because their life expectancy was deemed too short, but with the introduction of combination antiretroviral drug therapies in the mid-1990s, HIV patients on the treatments are living much longer. Still, many transplant centers refuse to perform liver transplants on HIV-positive patients because the organs are "scarce," and Kramer said that one hospital would not treat him because he had detectable HIV levels in his blood (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/20). UPMC, however, has performed liver transplants on 10 HIV-positive patients since 1997, and eight of these patients are still alive (Baltimore Sun, 12/27). Jeff Getty, an activist with Survive AIDS in California, said that Kramer's improved health could encourage more hospitals to perform transplants on HIV-positive patients and could encourage health plans to cover the costs. "Our group is extremely happy about this because we have been working on trying to get access to organ transplants for nearly four years," Getty said, adding, "We knew someone like Larry Kramer getting a liver transplant would lead to worldwide attention, so we're on pins and needles. We see this as an important turning point in changing consciousness" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/25).