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Avee Tsofa Holmes
Paul Theobald had already been diagnosed HIV+ when we met and became good friends. He lived just opposite the Sussex AIDS Centre and Helpline (SACH) with his partner Terry Morgan, and I lived nearby. Paul was worried that there were no weekend services for people with HIV, so he decided to start group meetings at his flat on a Wednesday. Back then SACH had a telephone helpline seven nights a week and a buddying service staffed by volunteers like me. There was also a small BP group, but volunteers were not allowed to go unless invited. I was fortunate enough to be invited alongside a paid worker we called ‘mother.’ Open Door provided lunch Monday to Friday and I cooked vegetarian food there every Tuesday. Paul’s meetings were popular because he was very charismatic, and soon something bigger was needed, so Sunday lunches were started in different homes each week, alternative therapies were introduced, and it wasn’t long before Our House Body Positive was born in 1992. Paul had it registered as a charity and premises above the old fruit & veg market in Circus Street were found. Paul was the first Chair we had, and I started fundraising with bric-a-brac stalls in the summer. I remember one Easter we put an advert in the Evening Argus for unwanted bits & pieces. I went down to Paul’s flat early one Saturday after stopping to buy 30 bunches of daffodils with our own money. We then drove all over to the homes of people who’d donated, and as people gave us their items, we wished them Happy Easter and gave them daffodils as a thank you. Paul worked very hard for OHBP and after a while it started affecting his health, so he stepped down. After his relationship with Terry ended, he decided to move back to London into a ground floor Flat in Islington where I visited a couple of times. His health improved, and he was soon back to the Paul we all knew. Sadly, we lost touch until 2004 when he phoned me to say he'd like to come to Brighton for a few days if I promised not to tell anyone. He said he'd let me know when he was coming, but alas that's the last I heard of him.