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European Jewish Ancestry: Activist Doctor Needs Stem Cell Donation

December 22, 2000

Alan Berkman, M.D. -- a key founder of the movement to make AIDS treatment and other expensive drugs available in Africa and other developing countries -- has Hodgkin's lymphoma and needs a genetically matched stem cell transplant within the next few weeks. So far no match has been found. The most likely donor will be someone of Eastern European Jewish ancestry.

"My folk came from Eastern Poland and Russia," says Dr. Berkman. "Until World War II you probably could have found dozens of people with my general genetic makeup. But a lot of those genes died in the camps. Now we can only hope that there are people out there, the children and grandchildren of survivors, or from families that emigrated a long time ago, who'll come forward."

Anyone at any risk of exposure to HIV -- even anyone who has had gay male sex once since 1977 -- is banned from donating blood under Federal rules. But you can help if you have contacts with organizations or other groups who have many members of Jewish or Eastern European ancestry. Participating in this effort can help everyone in that group, not only Dr. Berkman, by increasing the number of persons with that genetic makeup who have been tested and entered in the national registry, making it more likely to find a match for future patients. Currently there are very few persons of Jewish or Eastern European background in the registry, making it unlikely that a match can be found when needed.

You can be tested for your genetic type (called HLA type) by a simple blood test, which your doctor can order. You can be listed in the registry if you are medically eligible to donate blood under Federal rules. Then in the unlikely event that a patient needs your stem cells for a bone-marrow transplant (which is likely to be lifesaving for him or her), you could donate bone-marrow cells, a procedure which is safe but more invasive than donating blood. "You get the chance to possibly save the life of a relative you never even knew you had" (quote from a spokesperson for the HLA Registry Foundation -- see Web site below).

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In many areas you can save money by getting the test through medical organizations instead of a private physician; for example, in New York City call 800-NY-BLOOD for a test which costs $40 -- you can be in and out in half an hour. In Pennsylvania the test is available through the Pennsylvania Red Cross for $30. Certain racial and ethnic groups can be tested free under U.S. government programs. Anywhere in the U.S., to find a center near you, call the National Marrow Donor Program, 800-526-7809.


For More Information

Background on HLA tissue typing and the bone-marrow registry can be found at: http://www.marrow.org (the National Marrow Donor Program), or at http://www.hlaregistry.org (The HLA Registry Foundation, Inc.)

If you may be able to help in this effort to save the life of Dr. Alan Berkman, contact John S. James at AIDS Treatment News, jjames@aidsnews.org.



ISSN # 1052-4207

Copyright 2001 by John S. James. Permission granted for noncommercial reproduction, provided that our address and phone number are included if more than short quotations are used.


Back to the AIDS Treatment News December 22, 2000 contents page.




  
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This article was provided by AIDS Treatment News. It is a part of the publication AIDS Treatment News.
 

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