It's hard to believe that 20 years ago we heard the sad news that Freddie Mercury had passed away.
I know exactly what I was doing that evening. One of my former house mates called me for the second night in a row. The previous day he'd called me because the Freddie had announced that he was HIV positive and had AIDS and my friend from University had contracted HIV through a bad dose of Factor 8 to deal with his haemophilia. My friend had always been one to panic, it is the reason that why I at the age of 22 was already more well read on HIV and AIDS than a lot of people on the news or in Parliament who should have known better.
That night I had been constantly screaming at the radio as I listened to a radio phone in and then my phone went. My friend was panicked that people would think he was going to die tomorrow. I asked had he contracted AIDS yet, the answer he gave was "No!" so I said "You and me are just going to have to keep on educating people like that out of their ignorance."
I never thought that day that 20 years later there would still be so much stigma attached to HIV especially as the meds that are available now give people a much greater change of never getting AIDS and give a far better quality of life, if you ignore the regime of pills, than people thought was possible 20 years ago. Little did we know that 2,750 of those 4,500 + haemophiliac HIV cases would still be with us. At the time many of us who knew them were reassuring them that doctor were working on something to improve their chances of survival knowing that previous breakthroughs were having only limited success.
Freddie's tragic death did two things for generation. It brought many of us back to the music of Queen, even it appears brought one nine-year-old to their music for the first time. Indeed I loved the fact that earlier this month just up the road at the Odyssey in Belfast at the MTV Europe Music Awards that Roger Taylor and Brian May accepted the Icon award on behalf of Queen. I can only imagine what Freddie would have thought and said, probably "About time!".
The other thing it did was highlight the issues of HIV and AIDS, it made more people learn about the facts than before that time. That in turn made it easier for people living with HIV to find people who didn't shirk away from letting them use their toilet, or use the same mug as they had. Admittedly there are still far too many people, especially here in Ireland who seem pig ignorant when you read various comments threads. But from his legacy came the Mercury Phoenix Trust which is one of the charities working for those with HIV and AIDS especially in Africa where Freddie was born, but worldwide. There have been charity events in his name for HIV charities for 20 years now, including tonight at the Rossini Theatre in Civitanova Marche, Italy.
Not everyone has had the past 20 years in full as days of their lives. But Freddie, we still love you.
Thank you for the music and on behalf of those living with HIV who have benefited from you late coming out about your disease have benefited from your legacy in other ways. "Sometimes I get the feeling I was back in the old days - long ago" today is one of those days.
For absent friends.