Lambda Legal Defense Fund Files Complaint on Behalf of HIV-Positive Veteran Denied Liver TransplantLambda Legal Defense and Education Fund on Tuesday said it has filed a complaint with the Iowa City VA Medical Center on behalf of an HIV-positive Illinois veteran who was denied consideration for a liver transplant, the Des Moines Register reports. Gideon Green, who has end-stage liver disease, said he should be evaluated to determine if he is a suitable candidate for a transplant, which doctors have told him is "his only treatment option," according to the Register. However, Department of Veterans Affairs policy prohibits performing transplants on HIV-positive people, according to VA spokesperson Jo Schuda, the Register reports. Schuda added that the department is considering changing the policy based on new research that demonstrates HIV-positive people may have "greater transplant success than previously thought," according to the Register (Jordan, Des Moines Register, 4/28). 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 drug 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, 3/1).
Dr. John Cowdery, acting chief of staff at Iowa City VA Medical Center, said that doctors at the center would begin a pretransplant evaluation of Green, according to the Register. However, Schuda said that the review could not lead to a transplant unless the VA alters its policy, the Register reports. Schuda said, "It's not like it's going to be tomorrow" that the policy is changed. Lambda Legal said it has written to national VA officials about developing a policy requiring VA hospitals throughout the country to evaluate patients living with HIV for organ transplants. Jonathan Givner, staff attorney for Lambda Legal's AIDS project, said, "The transplant issue is extremely important because a large number of people with HIV also have hepatitis C. Often the only way to save them is through a liver transplant." Givner said he has sent to Iowa City VA officials 17 articles from medical journals showing the success of transplants among people living with HIV, according to the Register (Des Moines Register, 4/28).