Tributes as ‘exceptional’ HIV consultant Dr Mags Portman dies at 44
Doctor celebrated for helping people get access to PrEP
14 February, 2019
Dr Mags Portman
TRIBUTES have been paid to an HIV consultant who is credited with helping bring about one of the biggest reductions in diagnoses in British history.
Dr Mags Portman, who worked at the Mortimer Market Centre clinic in Fitzrovia, died from cancer, aged 44.
She helped hundreds of patients access an unlicensed treatment drug and set up a service that allowed people who bought it online to be monitored at the centre.
Fellow HIV consultant Dr Laura Waters said: “Mags was an exceptional, talented, passionate, committed and hugely knowledgeable sexual health physician and powerful advocate for good sexual health. Her tireless work with the community and specialty organisations in campaigning for fair access to HIV prevention, particularly HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), was inspirational.”
She added: “Mags was a hugely popular member of the Central North West London [CNWL] team – she touched so many with her kindness, humour and approachability and her loss will be felt by us, and many in the field of sexual health and HIV, for years to come.”
Dr Portman took up the consultant position at Mortimer Market, run by CNWL, in September 2015.
One area of her expertise was pre-exposure prophylaxis – a highly effective medicine that reduces the risk of getting HIV through sex by 90 per cent but which was not available in this country.
While at the Mortimer, Dr Portman was able to set up a system where patients were shown how to access the drugs online – and told they could be monitored on the NHS at the clinic.
Patients were given sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and renal monitoring for the use of PrEP.
At that time Dr Portman said: “We cannot fully endorse this, because drugs bought online may not have gone through the same safety processes as generic drugs used for other conditions on the NHS, but at Mortimer Market we believe that we have a responsibility towards people who are buying PrEP online, to keep them as safe as possible and are happy to see people who need PrEP monitoring.”
Last year, the Terrence Higgins Trust – the country’s largest HIV charity – set up the Mags Portman PrEP Access Fund that gave people living in poverty access to PrEP.
NHS England finally approved it in 2017, though restricted it to a few thousand patients.
Dr Portman had for the past two years been treated for mesothelioma and had kept a blog about her own health.
In a final message, written a few weeks before her death, she said: “I feel so emotional thinking of how you supported me and the family at this difficult time, and continue to do so. Thank you for the child care, the meals on wheels, the cups of tea, the supportive texts, being a listening ear, just letting me spend time with you when I needed to get out of the house.”
Dr Portman died last Wednesday in her hometown Leeds, leaving behind her husband Martin and children Edward and Freddie.