Jeff Getty Fights for Life

Jeff Getty Fights for Life

By: Staff  Date: 01/12/2012 Category: | Animal Rights Extremism | Research Reports |

Last December, AIDS victim Jeff Getty had a baboon bone marrow transplant to save his life and quickly became a target for radicals who oppose the use of animals in research.

"I was fighting for my life and they stuck their foot in my face," Getty said. "They used my life, my fatal illness so they could raise money."

Getty said that animal rights activists attempted to stop the transplant by filing complaints about the protocol with the National Institutes of Health and that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals harassed him during his recovery.

"Such extremists do not simply make animal research a matter of public debate," Getty said in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal in June. "One need not look far to find people with HIV or AIDS who have been targeted by animal rights zealots. When I was fighting for my life in the hospital this winter, I received death wishes from so-called animal lovers. Cleve Jones, founder of the Names Project, received death threats from animal activists after being a grand marshal for a gay rodeo. "

Already active in AIDS medical issues, Getty turned his attention to animal rights campaigns. He called researchers directly to discuss the impact of animal rights activities.

"Much to our horror, we discovered that animal rights extremists were impeding research," Getty said. So he went to work.


The discoveries

A former university administrative analyst, 39-year-old Getty discovered he was HIV-positive in the mid-1980s. He began to study the virus, particularly the immunological aspects. He worked with Act-Up Golden Gate, a group of San Francisco AIDS activists, to become knowledgeable about disease research every step of the way - from theory through animal tests to the phased studies on people - and helped streamline the process to get drugs and protocols approved. He also co-founded a group to review journal articles about immunology research.

Getty found several direct attacks against AIDS research. Activists hampered research into a cure for cryptosporidium, a water-borne protozoan that is often fatal to AIDS sufferers; forced Stanford University to build its AIDS research facility underground to prevent vandalism; forced excessive restrictions on research using animals; and interrupted research on in-utero transmission of simian immunodeficiency virus in monkeys.

The search for treatment and vaccine for cryptosporidium was being done at the University of Arizona; the Animal Liberation Front broke into four university buildings in 1989, stole more than 1000 animals, destroyed years of research, and heaped $250,000 in damages on the facilities.

Cryptosporidium is particularly devastating in Third World countries and to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, AIDS patients, and others with impaired immune systems. It is resistant to chlorine used in water treatment plants, and many city systems do not have adequate filtration to keep the parasite out of the drinking water supply.

After the ALF raid, the activists issued a letter that was distributed to the press by PeTA. In part, the letter said:

"The ALF conducted the liberations both as an act of mercy and compassion for the individual animal victims and also as part of a larger international campaign against the scientific/medical industry's misguided, anti-human, anti-earth, profit-oriented practices of vivisection, bio-technology, and synthetic pharmaceutical research. . . . We believe that the obligation to destroy vivisection is as urgent as the obligation to destroy fascism in Nazi Germany. Our campaign to crush the Aushwitz-like animal research industry will continue to escalate . . ."

Thirty of the mice taken by the vandals were infected with cryptosporidium as part of the research to develop a treatment and vaccine for the disease. Because the work was set back by the raid, an outbreak of the diarrhea-causing disease in Milwaukee in 1993 affected more than 300,000 people and killed more than 100, many of them AIDS victims.

The Progressive Animal Welfare Society, an animal rights organization, targeted one of the researchers involved in the effort to study in-utero transmission of simian immunodeficiency virus in macaque monkeys, and managed to halt the research that was a precursor to the use of AZT to block HIV transmission from human mothers to their babies. PAWS called the work redundant.

"Dan Mathews, an openly gay employee of PeTA, has said publicly that he agrees with the group's opposition to a cure for AIDS if it came through animal research," Getty said in the Wall Street Journal. "When asked about the fate of those currently dying of the disease, he responded, 'Don't get the disease in the first place, schmo.'"


The march in Washington DC

Getty and the activists clashed in June when backers of animal-based research preceded the annual March for the Animals organized by animal rights groups. During the week before the anti-animal use rallies, Americans for Medical Progress, AIDS activists, the Independent Women's Forum, and other groups captured headlines with their animal and human welfare message.

Before the march, PeTA's Mathews told Associated Press reporter Martha Irvine that Getty and other AIDS protesters would go largely unnoticed at the event. But stories in USA Today, Time, the Washington Times, and other print media and television network coverage got the message across: the lives of AIDS patients depend on the use of animals in research.

Getty was one of 25 ACT UP members who demonstrated outside the US Air Arena where the animal rights activists held their rally, and he was one of eight arrested and fined for blocking traffic.

Attendance at the rally was sparse compared with previous years. Although press releases claimed 100,000 activists would attend the week's events, only about 3000 showed up. Conspicuous by their absence were celebrities who espouse both animal rights causes and AIDS activism. Efforts by Americans for Medical Progress and ACT UP groups have targeted Hollywood's support of both by pointing our the inconsistency of opposing animal use in research with supporting efforts to cure the devastating disease.

"In the animal extremists' world, rats live and I die," Getty said. "Stop research and you stop life. My life and the lives of millions of people with HIV or AIDS depend on scientists working with animals to develop new therapies. Every drug we are taking to stay alive until a cure is found has come about only because of animal research."

After the march, Getty said "PeTA lost the spin on 90 percent of the stories out of Washington during the week. We creamed the PeTA machine with the truth. If we find them messing around in AIDS research, we're going to stop them.

"What have we got to lose," he added. "We're fighting a life and death battle." 

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All Authors Of This Article: | Norma Bennett Woolf |
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