On July 13th, 1985, the music world made history with a multi-continental concert aired live on televisions around the world. Famous and beloved musicians from that time entertained us with hours of music in the hope of bringing us together for one vital cause – to end starvation in Ethiopia. A valiant cause, a cause we still need to tend to today.
The musicians were at the top of their game that day and the world was enthralled. The concert, LIVE AID, is still discussed with admiration and nostalgia. Of all the amazing talent on stage that day, one band’s performance has been called “bloody brilliant”, “a one-off”, “the greatest live show of all time”. That band is Queen, with Freddie Mercury’s high energy and enthusiasm leading the way.
Announced to a huge live audience of not-only Queen fans, the band took the stage, with Freddie prancing directly front and center to soak in the adulation. His high-energy performance was amusing, entertaining and inspiring. His wide vocal range, playfulness, and timeless hit songs showed the world just what this man was made of, how deep his drive was and how versatile he could be.
It’s hard to look at his performance from that day and realize the man was dying.
Infected with HIV at a time when HIV and AIDS had not yet revealed their horrible secrets, Freddie Mercury started to wither away. A super-charged musical genius with the determination to go on, recorded songs until just weeks before his death. Between takes, he’d down shots of vodka to dull the unbearable pain. He’d have to rest several times during one song. And soon, at home, this man who energetically covered every inch of stage during every live performance had to be carried up a flight of stairs so he could rest in bed.
On November 23rd, 1991, Freddie announced to the world that rumors were correct. He had AIDS. The next day, well after having made a decision to stop taking medication that merely kept him alive but did not help ease the pain or subdue the devastating disease ravaging his body, Freddie Mercury died of AIDS-related pneumonia.
Seventeen years later, this dreadful disease is still destroying lives. The lives of the famous, the lives of the everyday folk, men, women, and children from all nations, of all religions, of all races are being infected and dying.
Yes. We’ve made advances. But the disease is still active. The disease is still being spread. The disease is still strong enough to fight off all attempts to kill it.
Today is World AIDS Day. A day for the world to join together and face the fact this disease is not going away on it’s own. It’s up to us to raise awareness. It’s up to us to show tolerance. It’s up to us to educate those who are still confused as to how this disease is spread.
In 1985, the year of Live Aid, the very first HIV antibody test became available. Since then, we’ve been able to extend the lives of those living with HIV. Medicine has been able to keep ‘full-blown AIDS’ at bay for many. But, in 1991, the year Freddie Mercury died, 10 million people worldwide were living with HIV. Today, despite all efforts to educate and eradicate, an estimated 33 million people now are living with the disease.
It’s time to stop the madness. It’s time to practice safe-sex. It’s time to talk to your kids. It’s time to get real and face this epidemic head-on.
It’s time to learn more.
It’s time to raise our voices, silence this disease and be proud of the world we created.