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David Stuart, chemsex and LGBTQ sexual health expert, has died

"His work with our patients has undoubtedly saved many lives and his loss immeasurable."

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James; pictures: 56 Dean Street

LGBTQ sexual health expert and advocate, David Stuart has died, according to the sexual health clinic where he worked for the last eight year, London’s 56 Dean Street.

Known to many for his pioneering work in chemsex awareness and support, David was a pillar of the LGBTQ community.

In a statement published today (Wednesday 12 January) 56 Dean Street said on Facebook it was “with great sadness that we announce the sudden death of our colleague and friend David Stuart.”

“David is known and respected internationally for his tireless work”

Continuing, it reads: “David has worked at 56 Dean Street for the last 8 years as our Substance Misuse Lead specialising in Chem Sex. He has been pioneering in his work and has dedicated his time as an advocate, activist, support worker, campaigner, lecturer, and researcher. 

“David is known and respected internationally for his tireless work with Gay, Bi, and Queer communities which he did with passion, empathy, and kindness. His work with our patients has undoubtedly saved many lives and his loss immeasurable.”

In a statement provided to Attitude, 56 Dean Street said that David “was passionate about bringing our communities together and encouraged and supported people to fulfil their potential.

They added: “We will miss him greatly.”

Responding to the clinic’s Facebook post Attitude’s former editor and author of the book Straight Jacket: Overcoming Society’s Legacy of Gay Shame, Matthew Todd described the news as “devastating,” adding that Stuart was “a superhero” who “saved countless lives in this community. Truly can’t think of many who did more to help so many people.”

On Twitter, the HIV campaigner, Marc Thompson described Stuart as “an incredible advocate and activist”, who was also “simply a wonderful human being.” 

Often credited with coining the term “chemsex” David wrote on his website that he was motivated to raise awareness of the phenomenon after his own experiences with drugs. He has been at the forefront of the fight to draw attention to an issue he argued was an epidemic and fought to get investment in offering support to people struggling with chemsex.

He’s worked with governments around the world to build effective HIV and chemsex support services often in the face of precarious funding. 

Not discouraged by the obstacles he faced he persisted and has undeniably helped establish 56 Dean Street as a leading service in sexual health. 

Cliff Joannou, Editor in Chief at Attitude magazine, says: “David transformed the conversation around recreational drugs and sex in the gay/bi male community. Much of the dialogue that exists today around these issues was shaped by his early work, and countless people owe their sobriety – and indeed their lives – to his work and support.

“On a personal note, I met David over twenty years ago, long before he began his pioneering work in reframing LGBTQ+ addiction. Later, we would work together to spotlight the impact of GHB/GBL on London’s gay scene and community, as well as spotlight the then unacknowledged lack of LGBTQ+ inclusive sex and relationship education in schools, and how it affects issues around gay shame and addiction.

“He was a remarkable and compassionate man.”

He will be sorely missed.