Wendy Austin recalls last moments with brother who died from Aids – BBC News

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Media caption‘I saw him and thought Mum and Dad needed to come’

BBC broadcaster Wendy Austin has been speaking candidly about the death of her brother from Aids.

David Austin was diagnosed with HIV while living in London in 1993.

In a television interview, the journalist talks about how her family was unable to bring his body back home for burial because of his condition.

Her story is part of a new documentary in which County Antrim actor Matthew Cavan talks about living with HIV and the abuse he endured.

True North: Cherrie, Me and HIV is narrated by Matthew, who also talks about living as a gay man in Northern Ireland and the prejudices he encountered.

He was diagnosed as HIV positive 10 years ago – something he says changed his life and had a huge impact on those closest to him.

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David Austin was diagnosed with HIV in 1993

The documentary focuses on what has changed since the Aids epidemic first came to the public’s attention in the 1980s and how close scientists are to finding a cure, if at all.

During the programme, Matthew visits Wendy Austin and her daughter Kerry.

The veteran broadcaster said her brother broke the news of his illness to her during a visit to London.

“He [David] got in touch with me one day and said: ‘I’ve got some really bad news for you – I’m an alcoholic and I’m HIV positive’.

“He did start to go downhill very quickly and the next time I saw him in London I thought that, really, mum and dad needed to come over.

‘Sad journey’

“So we went over for the weekend, the three of us, and we saw him then. I have to say he looked beyond dreadful.

“Actually, I think that was the last time I saw him and the last time mum and dad saw him.”

She spoke about how the family had to make the “sad journey” to London for his funeral.

“One of the things that we discovered was there was no question of being able to bring his body back here because he had died from Aids, ” she said.

“He was zipped up in a bag and taken away and that was that. He had to be cremated.

“People would stop me in the street and say: ‘I’m sorry to have read that about your brother, but good for you for talking about it.'”

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Matthew Cavan talks about his experiences as a gay man in Northern Ireland

During the programme, Matthew Cavan also returns to his family home.

In a poignant discussion, he explores with his parents how his sexuality and diagnosis impacted on them and their strong religious faith.

He also meets people who are helping prevent further cases of the condition and talks to those who understand the stigma around HIV.

Matthew also speaks to the doctors who treat his condition and finds out more about how, with the right medical help and support, men and women with HIV can expect to live a healthy, happy life.

During the documentary, Matthew introduces his colourful drag alter-ego, Cherrie Ontop, who brings sparkle and fun into his life and helps him cope with the pressure of living with HIV.

True North: Cherrie, Me and HIV is on BBC One Northern Ireland on 4 November at 22:35 GMT.

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