A recent video from NBC is spotlighting the environment that HIV-positive people live in within the world of surgery and transplants.
The below segment produced for NBC WNU spotlights the life and struggle of Reynaldo Garza. 59-year-old old florist Garza is HIV-positive and was looking for a kidney transplant in 2016.
HIV-patients have to wait around a year before being viewed as eligible for a transplant. This is because health officials still consider them a risk. In order to combat this stigmatized environment around transplants, Dr. Peter Stock stared campaigning to legalize procedures where HIV donors can give their organs to HIV recipients.
This isn’t to say that patients who are HIV-positive can’t or shouldn’t receive donations from people who are HIV-negative. Dr. Stock just wanted to better serve HIV-positive people who were being neglected by a biased and unfair system.
“We have an organ shortage crisis in this country and individuals living with HIV are disproportionately affected,” said Johns Hopkins University assistant professor Dr. Christine Durand according to Towleroad.
Eventually, Stock came across Garza who had been living with HIV for 20 years. After hearing what Dr. Stock wanted to do for him, Garza was all in.
“It was an easy decision for me,” said Garza. “I had been very sick for a long time. I was tired of going in for dialysis three times a week, for four hours at a time, sometimes at five in the morning if that was the only slot open. I already had HIV, I had hepatitis C, I had renal failure. I was like, ‘Yes, I’ll sign anything. Just give me an organ.’”
Now two years later, Garza is doing great and there’s a change happening in the transplant system.
Unfortunately, the stigma continues and HIV-positive patients are still being treated as a health risk. That said, more hospitals are accepting HIV-positive organ donation. 25 to be exact, including Yale and Johns Hopkins. Before, there were an estimated 500 HIV-positive organs that were available and unused every year.
“But even if it’s 10 a year,” said Dr. Stock, “that’s taking 10 patients off the waiting list, and we need to use every organ that’s out there optimally.”
Hopefully, advocates like Dr. Stock will continue to look out for HIV-positive patients and change or outright end the stigma towards them.