Lambda Legal To Represent HIV-Positive Man Who Was Denied Insurance Coverage for Kidney TransplantLambda Legal, a national gay-rights group, on Monday filed a formal appeal with the not-for-profit HMO Kaiser Permanente on behalf of 53-year-old John Carl of Denver, Colo., challenging the company's refusal to provide insurance coverage for Carl's kidney transplant because he is HIV-positive, the Associated Press reports. Carl, who tested HIV-positive in 1988, takes antiretroviral drugs and was in good health until 2001, when he experienced kidney failure. Carl has undergone kidney dialysis three times per week since 2001. Officials from not-for-profit HMO Kaiser Permanente said that the transplant would be "too risky" because the drugs used to suppress organ rejection could harm Carl's already weakened immune system, according to the Associated Press. "What our doctors are concerned about with organ transplants is that after the operation, some pretty powerful immunosuppressant drugs are given," Kaiser spokesperson Steve Krizman said, adding, "They're worried they might be harmful for someone who already has a compromised immune system." According to the Associated Press, recent studies have shown that organ transplant survival rates are similar among HIV-positive patients and HIV-negative patients.
Hayley Gorenberg, Lambda's AIDS Project director, said that this is the first time the group has represented someone who was denied an organ transplant because of their HIV-positive status. Gorenberg said that representing an HIV-positive individual who was denied a transplant has been a "scenario we've been looking at the last year or so," adding, "We've been hearing more and more about the frequency of the problem." Lambda said that Carl had been accepted by the United Network for Organ Sharing's national list (Kohler, Associated Press, 9/22). Attitudes about 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. The treatment can restore patients' immune systems enough to allow them to withstand transplants and the immune-suppressing drugs that prevent the rejection of new organs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/24).