Pioneering chemsex activist and support worker dies suddenly: ‘We owe him a huge debt’

David Stuart

David Stuart, a pioneering advocate, activist and support worker who coined the term “chemsex” and worked tirelessly to help the LGBT+ community with substance misuse, has suddenly died.

For the last eight years, Stuart worked at London’s specialist LGBT+ sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street as its substance abuse lead, specialising in chemsex.

The support worker’s sudden death was announced by the clinic, which said in a statement: “It is with great sadness that we announce the sudden death of our colleague and friend David Stuart… 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.”

Stuart described the beginning of his work around chemsex in his own words on his website, explaining that after using drugs for a decade, “I found myself sober-ish, with a criminal record for drug dealing, a considerable accumulation of traumas and with a fire in my belly that drove me to raise awareness about chemsex”.

He continued: “I have tried to raise awareness about the chemsex epidemic that that is responsible for (yes, great amounts of pleasure) and also unfair, disproportionate experiences of trauma, psychosis, suicides and overdoses amongst (mostly) gay men all around the world.

“It truly is epidemic and so, so upsetting, almost becoming normalised experiences for too many gay men. Nearly every gay man in the world knows someone who has been affected very poorly by chemsex.”

Throughout his career, Stuart worked as a support worker and therapist for thousands queer men who struggled with chemsex, developed the world’s first chemsex support services and worked around the world to help governments and institutions to develop policies around chemsex and HIV prevention.

He also loved writing, which he described as a “hobby”, yet still published two books; a novel, and a collection of essays and poetry.

The LGBT+ community took to social media to mourn his sudden passing, remembering him as a “titan in the field of sexual health”.

Radio presenter Dean McCullough wrote on Twitter: “I’m lost for words. We owe David Stuart so much. A true pioneer. He will be missed forever.”

Journalist Jamie Wareham added: “This kind, caring and compassionate man was a fighter. I’m so sad to hear this today.

“He coined the term ‘chemsex’ and then put this vital subject on the agenda. Working with him on journalism about drugs and sex over the years has been an utter privilege. RIP David Stuart.”

“Heartbroken that David Stuart from 56 Dean street has died,” wrote Matthew Todd, former editor of Attitude and author of the book Straight Jacket: Overcoming Society’s Legacy of Gay Shame.

“He was responsible for us confronting the issue of chemsex and was a a true superhero of the LGBTQ community. Dedicated his life to trying to reduce harm. Truly saved countless lives. Goodbye darling man.”