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Retiring HIV expert praises gay activist

Thu 16 Nov 2006 In: New Zealand Daily News

3.30PM: Retiring senior HIV infection expert Dr Rod Ellis-Pegler has paid tribute to the dying gay man who was first to sound the alarm about the threat of HIV amongst New Zealand's gay men. Accepting a life membership of the NZ AIDS Foundation for his decades of work, Ellis-Pegler choked back tears as he recalled the outreach work he, the late Bruce Burnett and a growing band of HIV-aware people did in the mid 1980s to alert the medical fraternity and community groups to the dangers of HIV. Most of those early gay HIV activists, including Burnett, soon died, and Ellis-Pegler was the first infectious diseases specialist in New Zealand to have to confront the realities and ignorance surrounding HIV. This afternoon he recalled the imminent and dreadful deaths faced by those diagnosed as HIV positive in the early days of the epidemic and admitted that, although he was primarily an infectious diseases specialist, he and his colleagues also had to do palliative care for the dying. As the disease spread throughout the country other clinicians became involved in the fight against HIV and the care of those already infected but 'EP', as he became known by his patients, was always the senior figure associated with the clinical aspects of HIV treatment and prevention. Ellis-Pegler was applauded by medical colleagues, HIV positive men and staff of the AIDS Foundation, who gathered at the end of an infectious diseases conference at Auckland Hospital, to wish him well in his retirement. In a speech of thatks, NZAF Board member Gordon Chapple thanked Ellis-Pegler for his rational. non-moralistic, approach to HIV, and warned that the ongoing battle against HIV meant it was unlikely the doctor would be able to shut up shop on the subject of HIV. The comment provoked a smile and a knowing nod from Ellis Pegler.     Ref: (j)

Credit: News Staff

First published: Thursday, 16th November 2006 - 12:00pm

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