Britain’s best-known HIV charity was launched 40 years ago, but little is known about the man who inspired it. The trust’s co-founders, a former partner and a close friend, reflect on his extraordinary life and legacy

When Rupert Whitaker met Terry Higgins, he was 18 years old, callow and just starting out in life. Higgins was 37, streetwise and, although neither knew it at the time, approaching the end of his. They spent a blissful year together in which Whitaker learned so much. “He taught me that there was love and affection and safety and great sex and fun – that it all existed,” he says. “I was 19 and one month when Terry died.”

Today, Higgins continues to influence his life. Whitaker, a psychiatrist and immunologist, has dedicated himself to helping people who are HIV positive in the name of Higgins. He is one of two founders of the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Not only has this kept his partner’s name alive, but it has also raised awareness of the virus, supported those who have it and, perhaps most importantly of all, helped destigmatise HIV.

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