As we approach the end of Pride Month, Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network continues to proudly join our LGBTQIA+ communities and allies in celebrating. As part of our celebration, we are joining Chicago’s Pride in the Park festival on June 26 and 27, and sharing stories that embrace and celebrate our LGBTQIA+ colleagues, family and friends, and the powerful difference they make in our communities, culture and society.
Equality and equity are at the foundation of donation and transplantation, as well as our values. We are committed to breaking down the misconceptions about organ and tissue donation and empowering everyone to make informed decisions about their health – including registering as organ, eye and tissue donors. And despite common belief, there are no barriers preventing LGBTQIA+ individuals from donating organs.
Age, race, gender and sexual orientation are not factors in becoming a life-giving donor. In fact, many donors and recipients are LGBTQIA+ individuals. Their lifesaving contributions and time volunteering to share this message are selfless gifts to us and to so many people in need.
Donation shows no prejudice
When Shawna Hall was faced with the unimaginable in 2020—that her wife, Dr. Yvetta J. Hall, of just five years would not survive an illness—Shawna made the decision to donate Yvetta’s organs when asked to provide her
“Yvetta was a very selfless person and would do anything for anyone. What better way to give back than to donate her organs so someone else could live?,” Shawna said. “It’s what she would have wanted. After she passed away, so many people told me stories about how they were inspired by her to pursue their dreams. It was like I was married to a celebrity.”
Although Yvetta’s organs ultimately could not be donated for lifesaving transplant after testing confirmed a medical condition, she is a donor in spirit. Her life continues to make an impact in so many ways, including through Shawna’s volunteer work with Gift of Hope. As an ambassador, Shawna shares Yvetta’s life story and the importance of tissue, eye and organ donation. By volunteering with Gift of Hope, Shawna said, she’s found a way to cope with her loss and focus on the memories she shared with her wife.
“I’ve learned that the process doesn’t have to be totally grief filled,” Shawna said. “Gift of Hope has helped me find ways to honor Yvetta’s life—to celebrate instead of living under a dark cloud.”
Advocacy and advances for HIV-positive individuals
Thanks to advances in medicine and advocacy to change the law, HIV-positive individuals can become donors and save lives. The HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act was signed into law in 2013 and implemented in 2015, allowing for transplantation between HIV-positive organ donors and HIV-positive recipients.
It remains an important milestone because enabling HIV-positive individuals to donate increases the availability of organs for transplant – saving the lives of both HIV-positive and HIV-negative people. People living with treatable conditions, like hepatitis B and C as well as HIV, can all receive transplants. We at Gift of Hope are honored to have helped lead education and advocacy for the HOPE Act in conjunction with the Association for Multicultural Affairs in Transplantation (AMAT) and incorporate it in our work with families and outreach.
Our work toward equality and equity must continue—for our LGBTQIA+ colleagues, family and friends, for all those who wish to save and help lives, and for the more than 100,000 people awaiting the gift of hope through organ, eye and tissue transplants.
To learn more facts about organ, eye and tissue donation in the LGBTQIA community,
visit: LGBTQIA and Donation Facts.
You can help save and heal lives by registering as a donor and sharing your wishes with family and friends. Get started at bit.ly/GOHRegister or by texting HOPE to 51555.