Doctor tells how Nureyev fought illness to the last

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RUDOLF NUREYEV tested positive for HIV in late 1984, according to Dr Michel Canesi, the Paris doctor who treated him throughout his illness. The dancer kept his condition secret until the end because Nureyev was terrified that were it known it would prevent him from travelling and working.

In a long account of his illness, published today in the Independent, Canesi speaks of the times when the situation became so painful that Nureyev forbade any mention of it in his presence, and of the dancer's extraordinary determination and desire to remain a creative artist until the end.

Canesi tells of the days in 1992 when it looked as if the dancer might die at any time but fought back and was even able to direct Romeo and Juliet in New York, standing in the orchestra pit. The whole medical team at Perpetuel-Secours hospital had said: 'We're going to make him win, we're going to get him back on his feet for New York.' Canesi got telephone calls every day saying: 'Michel, the date is getting nearer, we will have to cancel the Met.' The doctor replied: 'Whatever you do, don't do that, it's the only thing that is keeping him alive.'

On 8 October Nureyev was on a couch in a box at the very front at the Palais Garnier in Paris for his production of La Bayardere. 'I was by his side,' Canesi says, 'and I asked him if he was happy. 'Very happy,' he said with a smile. I fought back the tears. The way he took a bow at the end of the performance and received his award was very moving. From then on it was impossible to hide the truth.'

Dr Canesi says that he gave this detailed account of his patient's illness because 'I'm thinking of all the anonymous patients who suffer from being ostracised'.

The last days, page 15

(Photograph omitted)