Gov. Jerry Brown signs Equality California-sponsored HIV+ organ donation billAround the Nation, Online Only, Top Highlights Monday, May 30th, 2016
SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Friday that allows organ transplants between HIV-positive donors and HIV-positive recipients. Senate Bill (SB) 1408 was authored by Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and co-sponsored by Equality California, AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and Positive Women’s Network-USA. The four organizations are part of the coalition Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform (CHCR), itself a supporter of the bill. SB 1408 brings state law in line with federal law and passed both the Assembly and Senate unanimously earlier in the day.
“These lifesaving surgeries have been proven safe and are now allowable under federal law,” said Allen. “There is no reason for state law to maintain an antiquated prohibition on organ donation by HIV-positive persons. By expanding the pool of organ donors, we will have shortened the time for all persons on the organ donor waiting lists, and saved lives in the process.”
The number of individuals in need of organ transplants far exceeds the availability of healthy organs. Yet California law criminalizes transplantation of organs and tissue from an HIV-positive donor to an HIV-positive recipient. Allowing the donation HIV-positive organs and tissue will save the lives of hundreds of HIV-positive patients each year, and shorten the waiting list for individuals awaiting transplants.
“We thank Governor Brown for acting so quickly to sign this bill,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “Dozens of HIV-positive people in California are currently waitlisted for an organ transplant, so this bill will save lives in a very real and immediate sense. This is the first step in what we hope will be a number of measures to modernize California’s antiquated laws that harm and stigmatize people living with HIV.”
SB 1408 is a first step towards modernizing a number of California laws that stigmatize people living with HIV by treating HIV differently than other communicable diseases. Most of these statues were enacted in the late 1980s, at a time of public panic about HIV and its transmission. Societal and medical understanding of the disease has since greatly improved, and effective treatments minimize transmission and give people living with HIV a normal lifespan. However, people living with HIV still can face felony charges, even when no real risk of transmission is present.
Equality California is working with CHCR to modernize California’s HIV criminal laws and to replace fear-based, stigmatizing laws that criminalize HIV-status with evidence-based, nondiscriminatory laws that protect public health.
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