Remembering Sarah Middleton-Lee

Frontline AIDS is deeply saddened to learn of the death of former staff member, and our long term supporter and friend, Sarah Middleton-Lee.

Sarah joined our organisation – then known as the International HIV/AIDS Alliance – in 1995 as the Policy and Documentation Officer, and was part of the initial group of staff who worked under our first ED, Jeff O’Malley. She then set up and headed the Inter Regional Programme in 1998 before leaving in the early 2000s.

She came back and had a brief spell as the Interim Head of Policy but, even after she left, she continued to work with us in so many ways. She wrote or edited many of our tools, facilitated countless workshops and sessions in all parts of the world, was instrumental in her work with the Community Delegation of the Global Fund and so much more.

She was an instrumental part of the HIV movement for the past 30 years and will live on in so much of our work.

We pay tribute to Sarah with these memories below, alongside thoughts and prayers to all her family and friends.

Christine stegling, executive director

I will remember Sarah for the warm, kind and big hearted woman who could conduct a room from the back like no other. She was an amazingly skilled facilitator, a fierce human rights activist and deeply cared for people and the issues that she worked on.

Sarah contributed to Frontline AIDS in many amazing ways and her thoughts and spirit will live on in so many of our reports, methodologies and processes and we will continue to think of creative ways to honour Sarah’s legacy.

Personally, I will remember the many personal and often deep conversations I had with Sarah, the travelling we did together, the many complex politics we lived together but above all I will remember her warmth and big smile. You will be missed, Sarah.


Twenty five years ago, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance was a small NGO based on Oxford Street in London. It was long before the Global Fund, PEPFAR and massive investments in the HIV response. We were just a small group of activists who wanted to support community action on AIDS in developing countries, despite being surrounded by indifference.

While we were mostly focused on channeling money and technical support to community groups, we realized that we also need a policy officer – someone to make the case to donors and big institutions that HIV mattered, and that communities had to be central to the response. My colleague Ioanna Trilivas and I interviewed a handful of candidates crazy and committed enough to apply.

When we met Sarah, Ioanna and I both knew instantly that we had found our superstar. And we were right.

Sarah had that magic balance of idealism and practicality, of passion and intellect, of drive to get things done and commitment to involving others. It’s not surprising that while we started as colleagues, we all became the tightest of friends. May she rest in peace and power.


I first met Sarah when I joined the organisation in 1998. From the very beginning I was so impressed by her warmth, calm energy and her commitment to doing things well and to a high quality – taking time to talk to and listen to many of us who were at the early stages of our careers.

I remember going on an annual partner’s visit with Sarah to the Philippines in 1999. We laughed so much and shared our life stories. A major learning for me was her openness to listen and learn, her passion for community leadership and her amazing ability to facilitate difficult conversations to get to a positive outcome.

Whenever I met Sarah in and outside work it was always with real affection, warmth and friendship. We owe Sarah so much –she leaves a huge legacy to the Alliance/Frontline AIDS  – as many of our tools, best practice approaches, case studies and policy positions, originate from the pioneering work that Sarah led on in the early years of our organisation, and her ongoing support to us as a consultant in recent years.

My deepest sympathies to Sarah’s family – especially her wife Su and her children Sid and Scarlett.


David Clark

Sarah will be deeply missed.  She had such a fierce intellect and clarifying light that she brought to every interaction but also that warmth and embrace of ‘nothing about us without us’ spirit that shone through in what she did.

She led on a safety and security toolkit, our ‘crackdown in lockdown’ report and a quality of life report to name just three impactful pieces of work from the last couple of years – and she led them all with that beautiful balance of intellect and humanity.  Sending a big hug to colleagues and friends getting their heads and hearts around this news.

enrique restoy

This is the most devastating news possible. Sarah was a marvelous human being who touched every single person she met. All of us who worked with her are better people, thanks to her. She was also a hugely committed and highly skillful colleague.

Sarah, you will forever be in our hearts.



tamar underhill

I’m so sad to hear this terrible news. What an awful loss. Such a wonderful, kind, caring woman. Thinking so much of her beloved family and all her many friends.

Sarah fought a brave fight in so many ways and she will be greatly missed.