AIDS activist Martin Delaney dies

Posted on 27 Jan 2009 at 12:03am
By By Marcus Wohlsen Associated Press

Delaney led the movement to get AIDS patients early access to experimental drugs

SAN FRANCISCO — Martin Delaney, who led the movement to grant AIDS patients access to experimental drugs and headed early education efforts about the disease, has died. He was 63.

Delaney died Friday morning, Jan. 23, of liver cancer at his home in San Rafael, said Dana Van Gorder, executive director of Project Inform, the San Francisco-based AIDS treatment advocacy and education organization that Delaney co-founded in 1985.

Earlier this week, Delaney was presented with a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases award for his role in leading the push to make AIDS treatments and education more widely available.

Information about the disease was difficult to find during the first days of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s. Even as the infection ravaged San Francisco’s Castro district, the epicenter of the city’s gay community, sufferers had few resources for reliable information about possible treatments.

In an interview with PBS’ "Frontline," Delaney said he started Project Inform to study patients who were bringing in experimental HIV medications from Mexico that were still under federal review.

The effort brought the group into conflict with several government agencies and spurred its campaign for changes in U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules to give patients with potentially terminal diseases faster access to unapproved drugs.

"It struck us as very clear and very simple that people with a life-threatening illness should have a different rule book than people in general when it comes to accessing new drugs," Delaney said in the 2004 interview.

Project Inform led early efforts to educate patients about their treatment options and was the first group to set up a national AIDS treatment information hotline, according to the group’s Web site.

The organization also successfully challenged the FDA and the U.S. Border Patrol to make it easier for Americans to bring back medications from beyond the country’s borders.

"Millions of people are now receiving lifesaving antiretroviral medications from a treatment pipeline that Marty Delaney played a key role in opening and expanding," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which leads federal research on AIDS treatments.

"Without his tireless work and vision, many more people would have perished from HIV/AIDS."

Through much of the 1990s, Delaney served as an official AIDS research adviser to the National Institute. He also led the Fair Pricing Coalition, which negotiates with pharmaceutical companies to keep HIV drug prices down. He was the executive director of Project Inform until 2008.

Delaney is survived by a sister, Lois Delaney-Ogorek, and brothers Bill, Don and Michael Delaney.

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