Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Clint Walters 'farewell to a hero in the fight against HIV'

Clint Walters, a young man diagnosed with HIV when he was 17 years old died of a heart attack on Easter Sunday aged 31. Below is a link to an article about him and his work.

Clint was a brave and determined man who I was privileged to know over many years. He was relentless in telling me that education and services were not good enough, and I agree - too many young people do not know enough about HIV infection, how to protect themselves, and too many young people don't know where, or are scared to get tested, and too many young people who are diagnosed with HIV are frightened, isolated and hurt.

Clint and I didn't always agree what good enough would look like, but that is irrelevant detail here. It is his passion to change attitudes towards people living with HIV and to improve services for young people with HIV that led him to spend much of his life challenging attitudes and supporting others selflessly and with boundless energy. Ultimately he was also frustrated about the services and support that are, or not available for young people that need them.

Clint's legacy must be a step change in attitudes towards young people and HIV from both professionals and young people themselves. His legacy must be our commitment to ensure children and young people get the education and support they need to protect themselves against HIV infection, that testing is free and easily accessible, and that when a young person is diagnosed with HIV they get the help and support they need.

At his memorial party reflecting on how we can all make a difference, I asked his friends and families to invest their time and support in those charities that aim to improve sexual health, prevent HIV and support those infected with HIV and to hold those same charities and the NHS to account in delivering the services and support young people need. None of us can rest until we there is a lot more progress.