Remembering Dr Mags Portman: pioneer activist for sexual health


A tribute to the much-loved Mags Portman on the sad news of her death

First published by HIV i-Base in HIV Treatment Bulletin (HTB) on 20 February 2019

It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of the much-loved sexual health pioneer and community activist Dr Mags Portman.

Mags had immense energy and enthusiasm for everything that she became involved with. Most recently this included linking with community activists to demand and enable access to PrEP.

Mags initially trained as a GP in Glasgow, qualifying in 2003, where she also worked at the Steve Retson Project that specialised in services for gay and bisexual men. After working briefly as a GP in Leeds, Mags retrained to become a specialist in sexual health, while continuing to support community projects including Leeds Skyline and Yorkshire MESMAC.

By 2014, Mags was working as a consultant at both the Royal London and Homerton Hospitals in East London, where involvement in the PROUD study started a new focus as a PrEP activist. Later, as a consultant at the Mortimer Market Centre, she expanded services to be one of the first NHS clinics to provide monitoring for people accessing PrEP online.

It was for her many diverse activities related to PrEP, that in April 2018, at the Joint BHIVA/BASHH conference in Edinburgh, Mags was awarded the BASHH Outstanding Achievement Award, where hundreds of delegates showed their appreciation with a standing ovation at the ceremony awards.

Her generosity as a friend also included the decision to write openly about her two-year struggle after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of mesothelioma. This documented the painstaking experiences of a doctor accessing NHS care as a patient, always with insights into the importance of her family and friends.

Mags died on 6 February 2019, in her hometown of Leeds. Our thoughts are with her husband Martin and their two children. She was 44.

Mags made such a lasting impression on everyone who was lucky enough to know her that she will always be remembered as an inspirational example of how to lead life to the best. Tributes from her friends and colleagues remembered Mags as an exceptional, talented, passionate and committed doctor who touched everyone with her compassion and kindness.

Simon Collins, HIV i-Base

Messages of farewell or in celebration of Mags’ life are being collected by friend and colleague, PrEP activist Greg Owen.


  1. Saving Lives. Dr Mags Portman.
  2. Strudwick P. A trailblazing HIV doctor who helped thousands access PrEP has died at 44. Buzzfeed. (12 February 2019).
  3. Mags Portman Blog. NotDoingThingsByHalf.
  4. Remembering Dr Mags Portman – an exceptional, talented, passionate, committed sexual health physician. (12 February 2019).
  5. Greg Owen blog. (6 February 2019).