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Remembering Freddie Mercury: How His Death Changed Perceptions of AIDS

Picture taken on September 18, 1984 shows rock star Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the rock band Queen, during a concert at the Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy (POPB).


Rock musician Freddie Mercury died on November 24, 1991 from bronchial pneumonia caused by AIDS. At the time of his death, Mercury was the most famous person ever to contract the deadly disease, according to a foreign media outlet “Euronews“.

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Par Freddie Mercury and his groups “Queen” influence is discussed at length. The influence of their cabaret-style space-age albums on the entire glam rock genre is cited, and Mercury’s brilliant stage persona. But one of Mercury’s greatest contributions lies precisely in the circumstances of his death. At a time when gay men affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic were being brutally treated by the media, Mercury’s death marked a shift in public attitudes towards the disease.

The first symptoms of HIV/AIDS appeared in Mercury in 1982, but the disease was officially diagnosed only in 1987. Four years after his diagnosis, his health had deteriorated to the point where he had to give up touring with Queen. His last public appearance was at the 1990 Brit Awards, and his last appearance on the set of a music video was during the filming of the song ‘These Are the Days of Our Lives’ in May 1991.


In June 1991, Mercury returned to his home in Kensington, where he lived until his death on November 24 of the same year.

During his lifetime, Mercury’s sexual orientation was often speculated in the media, but he never confirmed or denied anything himself, which was completely consistent with his general reticence to comment more on his private life in his interviews. However, as he began to look emaciated due to his illness, and partly due to the sometimes even aggressive reports made by journalists, various rumors about Mercury’s state of health began to circulate in the public.

Although throughout his life Mercury had never chosen to publicly reveal his sexual orientation or his medical diagnosis, on November 22, 1990, he decided to make a statement to the press.

“Following the speculation in the press over the past two weeks, I would like to confirm that I have tested positive for HIV and have AIDS. I thought it right to keep this information private until now to protect the privacy of those around me. However, now is the time for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join me, my doctors and all the people around the world in the fight against this terrible disease. My privacy has always been very important to me, and it is well known that I am reluctant to give interviews. Please understand that this position of mine will not change in the future,” said Mercury’s statement, according to Euronews.

This statement was published on November 23 – just a day before Mercury’s death.

Despite the fact that the diagnosis of the disease was not officially confirmed until the last day of Mercury’s life, his death was a turning point in how the British public perceived the disease, which until then had ravaged the gay community, in principle, without any sympathy from the public.

And, similarly to 1987, when Princess Diana opened the first specialist HIV/AIDS unit at London’s Middlesex Hospital, Mercury’s death raised the issue in a heterosexual context. After his death, the wall of his home, Garden Lodge Logan Place, in Kensington, became a shrine to the rock star. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was re-released and topped the music charts.

On April 20, 1992, the other members of the group “Queen” performed at the Freddie Mercury memorial concert “The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness” at London’s Wembley Stadium. This concert, with the participation of such stars as Elton John, David Bowie, George Michael, “Led Zeppelin” – Robert Plant, “The Who” – Roger Daltrey, Annie Lennox and many others, was watched in person by 72,000 spectators. The concert was broadcast worldwide and coincided with the launch of the Mercury Phoenix Trust, a charity fighting HIV/AIDS around the world.


In his tragic and wonderful life, however, he was able to change the world’s perspective on human suffering, and this is considered the most important legacy left to us by one of the greatest rock stars of all time.

As you know, December 1st is celebrated every year in the world AIDS Dayin order to promote awareness among people, increase the level of public awareness and reduce prejudices about HIV/AIDS and its consequences.


2023-11-29 05:29:55
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