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It is with great sadness that we must inform you of the passing of Chris Sandford.

Chris was Director of Education for the National HIV Story Trust presenting and lecturing in schools, colleges and universities. He was a passionate and vocal campaigner who wanted to see an end to the stigma attached to HIV, and use education and his own story as a way to create awareness and understanding.

As a young man Chris had a highly successful career in the arts – producing films and focusing his skills to tell stories and engage audiences. Chris nursed his partner Robert when he first fell ill in 1981, and stayed by his side until Robert eventually died in 1986.

In 1985 Chris was also diagnosed with HIV, he described it as having a sword hanging over him, ready to drop at any moment, and although he suffered a number of illnesses including a bout of pneumonia and hospitalisation, each time he recovered.

In 1996 he undertook what was then a ‘new’ test to determine viral load. Incredibly he tested negative, and it was around this time that he discovered that he was an ‘elite controller’, despite being HIV positive, his body kept his viral load undetectable without medication. It was at this time that Chris shifted his thinking, stopped focusing on what he feared could be an imminent death and realised that he was going to live.

Chris then dedicated his life to helping others. He worked for the NHS at the Mortimer Market Centre –  one of the largest HIV clinics in Europe and a major research centre – offering peer counselling, advocacy and education to 2,000 patients a year. He became a Governor of Central & North West London NHS Foundation Trust, a Trustee of two HIV charities, a member of the UK Community Advisory Board and worked as a patient representative with the Medical Research Council, Institute of Methodology and the Institute for Global Health. He was one of the authors of Cognitive Impairment in People Living with HIV –  published in The Lancet.

Chris worked tirelessly to support and represent the NHST, taking roadshows and talks to schools, businesses, colleges and out into the wider communities. His candour to share his experience of over 40 years of ‘living with HIV’, made him a fascinating and unmissable presenter, and he ran awareness training on behalf of the NHST for companies and organisations ranging from Camelot to ITV, The Royal College of GPs to the Virgin Group.

Chris was a supporter, advocate and friend for all of us at the NHST, he believed in the work we are trying to do and was prepared to put himself and his story on the line – and in doing so he made a tremendous difference.

He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

 

Chris Sandford 1947 – 2022

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