The California AIDS activist who received the first bone marrow transplant from a baboon in a desperate bid to combat the disease died this past week, his partner of 26 years said on Sunday.
Jeff Getty, 49, died from heart failure at a hospital in Joshua Tree, California, on Oct. 9, Kenneth Klueh told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Getty had been suffering from cancer, Klueh said.
Getty was a pioneer among AIDS activists, pressing for greater access for those with the disease to drugs still in development despite unknown risks.
In 1995, he received the bone marrow transplant, a controversial procedure because of its risk of rejection, damage to his AIDS-weakened immune system or unknown infections.
"He was always at the forefront of new therapies. He worked hard to make new AIDS drugs available to people with AIDS with compassionate-use programs and things like that. And he wanted to advance the research," Klueh said.
While the transplant was risky, AIDS researchers at the time had few options in treating the disease, said Jeff Sheehy, an AIDS activist on the governing board of California's voter-approved stem-cell research financing center, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
"There was only one prognosis for HIV and that was death at the time he did the experiment," Sheehy said. "It was at a dark time. People were hoping something would emerge, but there was no clear sign of anything emerging to treat HIV, and everyone who progressed to AIDS died."
The transplant neither obviously hurt nor helped Getty, and within a year researchers discovered drug "cocktails," or a combination of drugs, to treat patients with AIDS and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.