Jeff Getty, 49, AIDS Activist Who Received Baboon Cells, Is DeadBy THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: October 16, 2006
JOSHUA TREE, Calif., Oct. 15 (AP) - Jeff Getty, a prominent AIDS activist who in 1995 received the first bone-marrow transplant from a baboon to treat the disease died here Oct. 9. He was 49.
Mr. Getty died of heart failure after treatment for cancer and a long struggle with AIDS, said Ken Klueh, his partner of 26 years.
Before antiviral drug combinations were used successfully by AIDS patients, Mr. Getty received national attention in 1995 for becoming the first person to receive a bone marrow cell transfusion from one species to another. His transplant at San Francisco General Hospital used cells taken from a baboon, with the hope that the primate's natural AIDS resistance would take root in his system.
The procedure, ultimately unsuccessful, led to furious debate over the moral and medical implications of cross-species transplants.
"That trial reflects the level of desperation at the time," said Dr. Steven Deeks, the professor at the University of California, San Francisco, who was the experiment's lead investigator. "Jeff was just hanging on to his life. He inspired us that a risky and aggressive intervention was worth trying."
While the baboon bone marrow cells quickly disappeared from his system, Mr. Getty's health seemed to improve significantly. He went on to help pave the way for the drug cocktail highly active antiretroviral therapy, or Haart, which keeps many HIV and AIDS patients alive today.
"He is emblematic of a whole group of men who survived AIDS in the early 1980's and 1990's and made it into the Haart era but had developed so much resistance to the drugs that they never got their virus fully under control," Dr. Deeks said.
Since his AIDS diagnosis in the days when the disease was known as the gay cancer, Mr. Getty was a fierce activist. He volunteered to test experimental drugs, and was jailed for demonstrating against pharmaceutical companies and for throwing a coffin on a hospital lawn to demand organ transplants for patients.
"He was committed to getting results," said State Senator Carole Migden, who worked with Mr. Getty when she was a member of the State Assembly, "even where it was clear that it wouldn't help him,"
A former University of California policy analyst, Mr. Getty had a keen intellect that helped him navigate the science and politics of the disease, but he also could be difficult and demanding, colleagues said.
"He wasn't easy to work with," said Michael Lauro, an organizer who teamed with Mr. Getty in the advocacy group Act Up Golden Gate, later called Survive AIDS. "That's how people with great vision, great hearts and great drive are like. He could get things done."
Mr. Getty is survived by Mr. Klueh, his father and two sisters.