The Israeli transgender community has won yet another achievement. For the first time, following an intervention by the Minister of Health, the Committee that is certified to approve sex change operations approved gender reassignment surgery for an HIV positive MTF transgender- a precedent that will allow HIV carriers to change their gender in this country.
Up until recently, the Ministry of Health had refused to approve Galit (pseudonym) for gender reassignment surgery because she was HIV positive. Then, after years of struggle, an unprecedented operation was approved, and Galit will be the first HIV-positive individual to undergo sex reassignment surgery in Israel.
“In 2004 I started the process with the committee, where the surgeon and chairman of the committee told me that he would not operate on me because he was afraid,” said Galit. There was no apparent impediment to having the surgery, so she filed an application as required and met all the criteria, but was refused for being HIV positive. That refusal has so far been received by all the HIV positive people who filed a similar request.
At first Galit accepted the committee’s decision, but a few years later she decided to try again and submitted an application for the surgery at Sheba Medical Center. “I was really eager to do it. I said that I would fight with everything that I have if I need to,” said Galit.
Galit didn’t give up and turned to Israel’s National AIDS Task Force, that presented to the committee opinions of surgical doctors who indicated that there is no reason not to perform a surgery on an HIV positive person. Even Health Minister Yael German intervened, and made it clear to the committee that it shouldn’t refuse the surgery, and Galit finally got the approval. “Now finally the committee also said that for sex change surgery- just like for any other surgery- it’s irrelevant if you have or don’t have HIV,” said Dr. Yuval Livnat, CEO of the Israeli AIDS Task Force.
“It is very important for me that other girls won’t have to go through the humiliation and the feeling of contempt that I’ve gone through,” Galit said.
Despite Galit’s important victory, for now she’s still looking for a surgeon in Israel who will operate on her.