Chief executive of leading HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust Nick Partridge has been knighted.

THT was set up in 1982, the first charity to be set up in response to the HIV epidemic of the 1980s.

It was named after Terrence Higgins, one of the first people in the UK to die of AIDS. He died aged 37 in July 1982 in London.

Sir Nick told the BBC: “I’m absolutely delighted.

“This is great recognition of the pioneering work of Terrence Higgins Trust, the importance of patient and public involvement in health research through INVOLVE and the impact of the health watchdog, the Healthcare Commission.

“I’m very privileged to work with three amazing organisations and to be honoured in this way.”

THT has always been strongly connected to the gay community and has done much to change public perceptions of gay men, and to highlight the importance of government responses to HIV.

Since joining as an office manager in 1985, Sir Nick progressed to become head of THT in 1991.

He has been a driving force in gaining research funding into HIV treatment, contributing to the discovery of antiretroviral therapy in this way.

Sir Nick is the chair of INVOLE, a group which promotes the public’s involvement in the NHS.

He was made Commissioner of the Healthcare Commission in 2004 and named as one of

Britain’s most influential people in the Independent in 2006.

Other HIV campaigners have congratulated Sir Nick and spoken in support of his knighthood.

HIV Treatment Update editor Edwin J Bernard said: “It is remarkably significant that someone who has worked so hard in the HIV sector has finally been recognised.

“After 25 years of the Terrence Higgins Trust it is about time.

“Much of the media focus has been on the international Aids problem. I hope this shines the spotlight on HIV/Aids in the UK.”

The number of HIV positive people in the UK has increased greatly in the past decade. In 2000, 3,875 people were diagnosed, compared to 7,734 new diagnoses in 2007.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) are amongst the most affected groups; 3,160 MSMs were diagnosed as HIV positive in 2007 alone.