BY EDWINA P. GARZA
In the mission to save lives through the power of organ donation, we are often met with a number of barriers in discussing donation with our communities. After pushing past myths and misconceptions, we find ourselves with a group of people who want to donate, but have been misinformed about their ability to give the gift of life.
That confusion comes from a good place. After all, we want to be helpful and not harm a person needing a lifesaving organ transplant. Another reason for the confusion is researchers are finding out ways to save lives and we often don’t even realize. Consider this fact: Thirty years ago, it was illegal for an individual living with HIV to be an organ donor. But today, an organ donor living with HIV can now be a lifesaving hero to other individuals living with the same illness.
The HOPE Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in November 2013 with bipartisan support, provides individuals with HIV the opportunity to donate to transplant candidates who are also living with HIV. This law has become a vital step to getting lifesaving kidney and liver transplants to people who desperately need them.
Let’s review some numbers: Nearly 10,000 patients living with HIV are on the national kidney transplant waiting list and more than 1 million people in the United States are currently living with HIV.
According to researchers, 80 percent of patients living with HIV said they wanted to be donors when they die, but only 20 percent are actually registered and only 16 percent of those registered had discussed their decision with their families.
By allowing organ donation among individuals living with treatable diseases like HIV, we are able to save more lives, not just of patients living with HIV but patients who don’t have the illness will also stand tobenefit as well.
Ten years ago, it didn’t seem possible that individuals with HIV could be lifesaving heroes as organ donors, but because of researchers and doctors, there are daily discoveries that can maximize the opportunity to save lives.
During PRIDE Month, we want to address concerns about organ donation within the LGBTQ community who are disproportionately affected by HIV. It’s important to Texas Organ Sharing Alliance as the Rio Grande Valley’s organ procurement organization and Donate Life Texas, the official registry for organ donors, to let the community know we will work hard to ensure the promise a donor makes to save lives will be done in a safe manner to optimize the opportunity to save a patient’s life.
Being a participant in social norms like organ donation is important and a magnificent gift we want everyone to consider, no matter their health history. To share this message, we will join the South Texas Equality Project at their annual PRIDE in the Park event at the McAllen Convention Center on Saturday, June 23. We encourage everyone to visit our booth to learn more about donation and to sign up to save lives. No matter your health status, your gift is as good as anyone’s.
Edwina P. Garza is senior communications coordinator for the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA) in the Border-Rio Grande Valley Region. She is based in McAllen.