DALLAS, Texas -- Former Shreveport resident John Welch was diagnosed with HIV and cirrhosis of the liver on the same day in August 2016. He lost 90 pounds and suffered from fatigue and insomnia. He quit drinking immediately and began an HIV drug regimen, gained his weight back and started feeling better.
On June 8 he was put on a liver transplant list. Less than three weeks later, he became the first person in Texas to receive a new liver under the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, or HOPE Act, of 2013, which is a federal law that allows HIV-positive people to donate organs to HIV-positive recipients. Prior to this law, hospitals were not permitted to harvest an organ from an HIV positive patient.
“I want to let people out there know that if you're HIV positive, it doesn't matter,” said Welch. “Mark that box on your driver's license, let people know that you want to be a donor because it can change someone's life. It changed mine. And now I have another 20 maybe 30 years.”
Now a resident of Dallas, Welch gives tremendous credit to his transplant team at UT Southwestern’s William P. Clements, Jr. University Hospital. He says your medical team is the key to having the right treatment and recovery.
He encourages those who are HIV positive to pass on the gift of life.
“I want to bring awareness that hope is not lost just because you have HIV and you may be in need of an organ,” Welch said. “Because there are the processes and the studies out there now that will give you hope and give you the chance to help someone else. And not to hesitate to be that source of hope.”