Gary Kelly, a lifelong socialist and member of the Socialist Workers Party for 25 years, died in hospital on 22 December aged 45. He will be missed greatly by all who knew him and worked alongside him in the many struggles he was at the heart of.
Gary had battled for 22 years with the effects of the HIV infection he contracted in 1986 following NHS treatment for leukaemia.
While being cured of one life-threatening illness, he found himself, at the age of 23, battling another. He campaigned tirelessly for justice for those who were given HIV-contaminated blood by the NHS.
The government had known of the dangers for over four years. Gary consistently challenged prejudices towards the whole HIV positive community.
In 1992 the Eileen Trust was formed as a result of this campaigning.
It awarded financial compensation to the previously forgotten non-haemophiliac victims of HIV-infected blood transfusions. Many of those infected were expected to die within a few years and have found themselves being forced to live on benefits and in poverty.
Gary continued to speak out and organise, including through the pages of Socialist Worker. His dedication to fighting for answers and justice inspired all who knew him.
Throughout his own battles with ill health he never wavered in his determination to see those responsible brought to account. He never failed to speak out and say what needed to be said to those in power.
He was intimidated by no one. This applied just as much to his involvement in other working class struggles.
As a council tenant, he was a leading campaigner against housing stock transfer, particularly in Glasgow, where his determination and strength shone through. The Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees received great help and support from Gary.
His warmth and generosity to others – including many HIV positive members of the asylum seeking community
– were invaluable in many situations. He developed networks across the movements in Glasgow. This was where Gary’s socialist beliefs came into their own. He introduced people, made the links and joined the struggles. Gary never stopped. Others in better health might have given up, he never did. Gary has many friends with whom he shared his other passions in life – football and music.
He had an extensive musical knowledge and was always introducing people to great musicians, new and old.
He had a strong love of the blues, never missing BB King when he came to town, but his good taste extended widely.
We send our condolences to Gary’s family: his parents Myra and Jackie; sister Lesley; nephew Callum and niece Abby.
Read an article Gary wrote for Socialist Worker » Scandal continues of NHS patients who contracted HIV through contaminated blood