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AIDS activist
Jeff Getty, who received baboon transplant, dies

AIDS activist
Jeff Getty, who received baboon transplant, dies

Jeff Getty, a prominent AIDS activist who in 1995 received the first bone-marrow transplant from a baboon to treat the disease, died October 9. He was 49. Getty died of heart failure, following treatment for cancer and a long struggle with AIDS, at the Hi-Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree, Calif., said Ken Klueh, his partner of 26 years. Before antiviral drug combinations were used successfully by AIDS patients, Getty grabbed national attention in December 1995 for becoming the first person ever 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 own system. The procedure, ultimately unsuccessful, sparked furious debate over the moral and medical implications of cross-species transplants. While the baboon bone-marrow cells quickly disappeared from his system, Getty's health seemed to dramatically improve. And his procedure helped pave the way for the drug cocktail HAART, or highly active antiretroviral therapy, which routinely keeps many HIV and AIDS patients alive today. Since being diagnosed with AIDS in the days when the disease still was known as ''the gay cancer,'' Getty was a fierce activist, volunteering to test experimental drugs, getting thrown in jail for protesting against pharmaceutical companies, and even throwing a coffin on a hospital lawn to demand organ transplants for patients. A former University of California policy analyst, 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. (AP)

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