California: Playing with Lives

I was recently talking to a good friend of me about my heart. Due to radiation poisoning, my heart is all but shot to….you know the place. So he asked me, what about a heart transplant? And I told him, “I don’t want one. Not anymore.” I went on to explain why. Now I will tell you. California is so protective over people’s feelings, they will let people die in the process.

On May 27, 2016 ,a piece of legislation was rushed through the Senate in California that would make it possible for HIV patients to donate their organs to other HIV patients. That sounds all fine until Murphy’s law takes effect. There is a reason that HIV patients are not part of the donation pool, even to each other. But the people who purposely say they are for science start throwing it out rather quickly if science will “hurt someone’s feelings.”

The following are the reasons this law is dangerous:

  1. It lowers the standards for transplants. If you are now willing to let in HIV patients, one of the most deadly diseases there are, what other diseases will now become acceptable into the transplant pool? While they are initially only letting people with HIV transplant to one another, how long will be until we hear about someone who didn’t have HIV being transplanted with someone who did? People are not perfect, we all make mistakes and one mistake in this area can do insurmountable damage.
  2. But let’s say the system they devise works out. People with HIV are only getting transplants with people with HIV. Those who need transplants are being saved because now they are more organs for them. HIV people are getting organs. Everything is great. However, transplants in an of themselves open the body to infection. But here is the thing, there is such a thing called HIV superinfection:

Unprotected sex between two HIV-positive people is also risky even if both partners are otherwise STD-free and the relationship is mutually monogamous. This is because of the potential for an HIV superinfection.

HIV superinfection occurs when a person who is already infected with HIV is exposed to, and becomes infected with, a different strain of the virus.

Some studies have estimated that the risk of superinfection is similar to the rate of initial infection with HIV. Superinfection is problematic because it is associated with increased health problems, and because it is harder to treat, even using combined antiretroviral therapy, as there is a possibility that someone could be infected with two differently drug-resistant strains.

HIV Superinfection

So if this is a very real possibility just by exchanging semen during sexual encounters, how much bigger is the risk of HIV superinfection when implanting new organs into a person? Now let’s look at what the World Heatlth Organization (WHO) has to say: “There are two main strains of HIV: HIV-1 that has caused the majority of infections and AIDS cases and HIV-2, which is concentrated in selected countries…HIV itself has numerous varieties and has been shown to mutate even within an individual during the progress of the infection. AIDS develops in an HIV-positive person after years of infection, as HIV steadily weakens the body’s immune system and increases its vulnerability to pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhoea, tumours and other opportunistic illnesses.” WHO-HIV

So you may have two main strains but you still have numerous varieties. So you could have HIV 1 and your partner may have HIV 1 as well but that may not be what both of you really have. Your partner could have HIV 1.1 and you could have HIV 1.2. And it is the slight change that really isn’t discernible under a microscope could have a real impact. If they don’t want you exchanging semen due to super-infection why is now okay to exchange organs? Don’t the same risks apply? People will say, don’t people with HIV deserve a chance to save their lives via organ transplantation? Of course, they do but the best possible organ they can get and not one that can potentially open up more risks to them.

Transplantation is a very real possibility for me in the future. This is not a what if situation for me, it is a when situation. To me, this is the equivalent of saying, “Well Dena we found a heart for you but the person was a hemophiliac, but don’t worry you get a heart of out the deal.” I would be “Are you kidding me? I am already  a borderline hemophiliac because of my blood thinners, you want to make me a full-fledged hemophiliac, are you kidding me?” Now maybe I wouldn’t become a hemophiliac, maybe the likelihood that happening is totally minuscule, I don’t know. All I do know is you are giving me the organ of someone whose disease was worse than mine and there is no way I could do that. It is not because I hate hemophiliacs or don’t want them around me. It is because there are very real consequences of having their organ inside of me and the damage it could potentially cause. This is not hating, this is not bigotry, this is life and death and attention must be paid.

This feels like the medical community has given up. It is almost like, “Why should we waste good organs on those with HIV, let’s just give them other HIV organs and if they die, oh well they were on the transplant list it isn’t like they were going to live that long anyway!” This doesn’t seem like science this seems like surrender. If at every other point, you are telling people to be careful of engaging in behavior that could change their HIV status but all a sudden when you really need to be careful you are told it is okay, well that seems fishy and illogical to me. To need a transplant is a very scary thing, to take in someone’s body part that could already be rejected is a bit overwhelming. To then add something that can lead to greater problems seems downright cruel. As long as this law is in effect, I will not be getting a transplant. Even if I get my weight down, even if they say I they can put me on the list, I will refuse. Because even the medical field believes in surrender, I do not.




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