AIDS Treatment activist Jeff Getty died of heart failure Oct. 9 following treatment for cancer that was associated with his HIV infection. He was 49, and was believed to have become infected with the virus in 1980.
Getty was a member of ACT UP San Francisco, which dealt with broad politics and policy, and he helped to form ACT UP Golden Gate in 1990, which focused on treatment and access issues. The later changed its name to Survive AIDS! in 2000 when the first group came to be dominated by AIDS denialists.
Getty came to national attention in the early 1990s during a two-year fight with the FDA to allow an experimental bone marrow transplant from a baboon—which has a natural resistance to HIV—to see if the transplanted cells could fight HIV in a man.
It was the first time that cells had ever been transplanted into a man from another species. There is ongoing concern that a successful cross-species transplant might also result in new variants of infectious disease that could affect both species.
'That trial reflected the level of desperation at the time,' Steven Deeks, the researcher who conducted the trial, told the Associated Press. 'Jeff was just hanging on to his life. He inspired us that a risky and aggressive intervention was worth trying.'
The experiment, conducted at San Francisco General Hospital in December 1995, did not work. The transplanted cells failed to engraft and become part of Getty's immune system. But he was able to benefit from protease inhibitor therapy that was just becoming available.
Getty moved from the Bay Area to the desert community of Joshua Tree in 2002, where he died. He is survived by Ken Klueh, his partner of 26 years.