The Sunday Times 6 April 2014
THE former lover of a multimillionaire inventor has backed a new government campaign warning women that they may unknowingly be carrying the Aids virus.
Adrienne Seed, 64, was in a relationship with Brian Mercer — the creator of Netlon plastic mesh, which is used to pack fruit and vegetables — for more than 30 years. She believes he unwittingly infected her.
“My reason for speaking out is not for sensationalism or to cast blame but to raise awareness and hopefully save lives,” said Seed, who found she was HIV positive in 2001.
Figures from Public Health England show the number of heterosexual women over 50 diagnosed with HIV has doubled to more than 200 a year in the past decade.
Experts believe there may be many more undiagnosed infections and the government has reversed a ban on the sale of instant result home HIV test kits.
Seed, an artist who trained at St Martin’s School of Art in London, was diagnosed by a homeopathic doctor when she went to Spain to recover from what she thought was pneumonia.
“I was distraught, furiously angry, hurt and bitter,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do or who to tell.
“I have never been remotely promiscuous.
“I have had less than a handful of sexual partners in my life, and the others are alive and healthy.”
Seed nursed Mercer, who was married three times, in the final years before his death in 1998. The cause of death was given as liver cancer but Seed thinks it was brought on by Aids, the final stage of HIV infection. However, Mercer did not tell Seed, nor anyone else, that he was HIV positive.
Mercer’s invention of Netlon, used for purposes from fruit and vegetable packaging to supporting transplant organs, helped him build an £80m fortune. A portrait of Mercer by Salvador Dali hangs at the headquarters of the Royal Society.
Calling on women to be vigilant, Seed said: “It can affect the most unlikely people — women in golf clubs or living quietly in suburbia.”
At least 100,000 people are infected with HIV in Britain with an estimated 25% of those unaware they have it.
Heather Leake Date, a specialist HIV pharmacist from Brighton, said: “We need HIV testing to become routine because it’s a big risk for people in middle and old age in long-term relationships who are not worrying about contraception.”
Public Health England said the first home test kits were going through the regulatory approval process and would be available within months.