Portrait of Terrence Higgins unveiled in Welsh parliament

·3-min read

A portrait of the first named person in the UK to die of an Aids-related illness has been unveiled in the Welsh parliament.

The art piece marks almost 40 years since Terrence Higgins, better known as Terry Higgins, died at the beginning of the epidemic.

His picture will now hang in the Senedd and act as a celebration of his legacy, as well as a reminder of “the millions of others who have been lost”.

It comes as the Welsh Government sets out its plans to end new HIV cases in the country by 2030, and opens a 12-week public consultation on the proposals.

Mr Higgins died on July 4 1982, aged 37, when it was not yet known what HIV was. It was not until 1996 that an effective treatment became available.

Having left his home in Haverfordwest aged 18 to join the Royal Navy, he later moved to London and began working in the Houses of Parliament for Hansard, who create official reports of all the debates.

Nathan Wyburn with his portrait of Terry Higgins. PA/Handout)
Nathan Wyburn with his portrait of Terry Higgins (PA/Handout)

He also worked in Heaven nightclub as a barman and DJ, and it was there that he collapsed and was taken to St Thomas’s Hospital where he was diagnosed with parasitic pneumonia, from which he died suddenly.

Following his death, his partner Rupert Whitaker and their friend Martyn Butler founded the Terrence Higgins Trust to help raise awareness of the mystery new illness and save lives.

Terrence Higgins Trust is now the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity -, offering support, information and advice services for those living with HIV and affected by HIV or poor sexual health.

Both Mr Whitaker and Mr Butler were made OBEs in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Ian Green, the Trust’s chief executive, said: “We made incredible progress in the fight against HIV since Terry’s death 40 years ago. But we must never forget Terry and the millions of others who have been lost since the very start of the epidemic.

Terry Higgins as a young man growing up in Haverfordwest, South Wales. PA/Handout)
Terry Higgins as a young man growing up in Haverfordwest, South Wales (PA/Handout)

“We are fortunate to be at a point where we have all the tools necessary to stop anyone else from acquiring HIV – something that seemed like it may never happen just a couple of decades ago.

“We owe it to those we’ve lost to utilise all we have – including prevention pill PrEP and fast testing options – to see Wales achieve the life-changing goal of ending new HIV cases by 2030.”

Artist Nathan Wyburn created the depiction of Mr Higgins, taken from a photo from his school days, using red and green stamps in the shape of the charity’s heart logo.

Mr Wyburn said: “As an artist who comments on and reflects the key social issues, and a proud gay man, being asked to mark the 40th anniversary of Terrence Higgins Trust is a huge honour.

“I wanted to make something that showed Terry as a young Welshman, so I thought why not quite bluntly turn him into the welsh dragon of our flag?”

A photo exhibition of Welsh people living with HIV, who can now live long, healthy lives due to effective treatment, called 21st Century HIV, will also be launched in the Senedd on Wednesday.

Chair of Fast Track Cardiff & Vale and Pride Cymru, Gian Molinu, said: “We needed to challenge how the public sees HIV and show that we are just people getting on with our lives.

“Stigma and fear stop people getting tested, and hiding part of yourself in fear of how people will respond is bad for your mental health.

“HIV is nothing to be ashamed of and we need to start saying that louder in Wales.”

Education minister Jeremy Miles said: “Terry Higgins is known to many as the inspiration of the first Aids activists and the organisation that bears his name and has achieved so much in this four-decade epidemic.

“I hope this art will be available for the people of Wales so we can never forget the unnecessary suffering of the Aids crisis.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting