HIV rights pioneer and community leader Stephen Gallagher continues to be mourned by sector colleagues and friends alike.
Gallagher’s death on March 21 has continued to affect community members who knew him as an impressively informed colleague and caring friend.
A member of Positive Life, the QLD AIDS Council and ACON over the years, Gallagher’s name may not have been highly publicised, but he was nonetheless recognised as one of the silent guiding forces of the entire sector.
“Stephen led from the middle — influencing, arguing, innovating,” close friend Alan Brotherton said. “He was present in most major debates and decisions, yet kept out of the limelight.
“It wasn’t the result of a cautious or shy personality. He was intelligent, sharp and fearlessly outspoken in his critiques and analysis. But his moments of grandness and extraordinary eloquence hid a genuine modesty. Largely hostile to recognition and praise of his work, he was usually too busy engaging with the next challenge to be bothered dwelling on recent achievements.”
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said, “He was one of those people who always had a huge impact on the sector more broadly. He was one of those people who, whether you worked at the AIDS Council or AFAO, you could always pick up the phone and have a conversation with him and get a really solid understanding. It was almost beyond the point of work for him, it was his life.”
As an HIV-positive man, Gallagher never shied away from the personal risk involved in speaking up publicly for PLWHIV rights.
“He always refused to play the supplicant or victim,” Brotherton recalled. “Like many early PLHIV activists, he was a self-made scientist, with a natural curiosity and great respect for the work of clinicians.
“He treated his increasing frailness less as a challenge or loss than as an irritating impediment to a full social life. Living — as he tried to help others to do — to the fullest extent possible, he went on entertaining, redecorating, partying and nurturing a lush subtropical garden on his balcony.”