I was reading somewhere on QZ,,, someone asking about when Freddie knew he had HIV...
I can tell you that back in the 1980's,a lot less was known about HIV than we know about today. Back then,you didn't get 1 test and that was it, you had AIDS. Doctors weren't sure. It usually took multiple tests for a doctor to tell you most certainly that you had the HIV virus in your blood. Up until 1985, tests hadn't been widely available to test for the virus. Up until then, people generally didn't know they had the virus until they were becoming ill and showing serious opportunistic infections. Doctors
generally made an AIDS diagnosis based on the patients helper T-Cell level – or lack of them. So it was hard for a doctor to tell
someone who wasn't sick that they had HIV virus – the first tests just weren't that accurate.
We will never know exactly when Freddie Mercury first discovered or even suspected something was up with his health. Fortunately, some of us have friends who know things about people, and some of those people's medical records can be accessed years later...So I will tell you a little story ;)
Did Freddie know he had HIV 1984? Most probably not...
In 1984 there was a test in the primary stages of deployment called the ELISA test & it was being developed to screen out HIV from the blood supply. It was highly sensitive, and very nonspecific, which means it gave a positive result easily even when, in some cases, there is actually no HIV present. It is very unlikely the Freddie's GP would have a offered up his blood to the
testing labs in Paris. So, based on the fact that Freddie was still healthy and hadn't changed any of his behaviour by 1984, I don't think he had any real inkling that he was infected.
1985 - Looking at the events - this was the year alarm bells started to ring for Freddie. Firstly, this was the year that the
ELISA test had become more accessible and available for doctors in the UK (and the rest of Western Europe) to test their patients for the possibility of HIV turning up in their blood. Freddie was still healthy at this time, or at least he was not showing serious opportunistic infections. But he may very well have had some of the tell-tail signs of HIV infection that doctors in the mid-80's began to recognize as precursors for a person who had the virus, but who had not yet developed full blown AIDS. Some of these initial symptoms are swollen lymphnodes throughout the body, night sweats, and a mild to moderate general malaise. Freddie may have mentioned something to his doctor at one of his checkups - or his doctor may have had his
blood tested for HIV along with other possible diseases that were routine for sexually active gay men. If an ELISA HIV test would have come back positive in 1985, Freddie's doctor would have told him, but would also have told him of the high possibility of a 'false positive' result - and would have requested him to do a second, third, or fourth follow-up test.
October 2nd, 1985 – Rock Hudson dies from AIDS.
It is strange that toward the fall of 1985, Freddie suddenly left Munich and returned to London. Some may say it was because he was ready to settle down at Garden Lodge. But I know that when Freddie did leave Munich toward the end of 1985 - it was for good, it was sudden and unexpected, and it was a life altering move. Something had changed him. He had abruptly cut off some of his closest friends from that city – Kurt (died from AIDS), Winnie K (died from AIDS), & Barbara Valentin (to name a few) without even returning their phone calls or offering any real explanation for the sudden and drastic departure. Gone too were his one night stands, recreational cocaine/ecstasy use, and clubbing he had partaken in Munich (and elsewhere throughout the previous years. Another person that was suddenly out of the picture...Paul Prenter. Paul had been employed
under Freddie/Queen since the mid-70's and had worked for Queen as recently as the Live Aid concert in July of that year. He was, in many respects, Freddie's sexual liason when Queen were on tour. If you wanted to get to Freddie in a club, you had to go through Paul. Paul, an Irishman, was tough and cheeky. He was someone who specifically knew Freddie's
sexual tastes and became Freddie's go between for fishing out anyone Freddie particularly fancied at a club, but didn't want to bother with the negotiating of a possible tryst. All I know is that something must have happened to Freddie in late 1985 that made him ditch Paul Prenter and the party boys at the nightclubs in Munich and retreat to Garden Lodge. Could it have been a doctor telling him that he may have the dreaded and deadly diagnosis that was going to kill
1986 - is where the crap really begins to hit the fan. It was in 1986 that insurance companies began screening their clients
for HIV. You can bet that all the members of Queen would have taken out insurance to cover a whole gauntlet of possible liabilities that may arise in the face of a disaster while on tour. Freddie, most likely, under the guidance of Jim Beach, took out a policy that would cover expenses if Queen were unable to take the stage at, let's say, Wembley Stadium, because Freddie lost his voice due to a health issue.
Health insurance is essential for singers who earn their living from their instrument. Cover for touring abroad, loss of
voice, accidental injury, engagement cancellations and loss of earnings will protect the singer if they are unable to perform due to illness or other unforeseen events. In 1984, the last time Queen started a tour, the ELISA HIV test had not been available to
Insurance Companies for the screening of their clients for HIV. You can bet that any insurer willing to cover a voice like Freddie
Mercury's on a Stadium Tour across Europe would want to know every little detail of their subject's health and the possibility of having to pay thousands or even millions of pounds due to a tour or concert cancellation if Freddie became ill. It is almost a certainty that before the beginning of the Magic Tour, Freddie, whose liability would have been greatest in the band, would have been tested for many diseases (Now including HIV) and would have found out that he was positive for the virus. No insurance company in their right mind would offer coverage to a person with HIV - especially in 1986 when AIDS was a
We all know Freddie decided to do the tour -even though he would have been aware of the gamble: if he suddenly
became ill or lost his voice (like in Sun City, 1984) - he would be screwed financially! His behaviour on the tour seems to back up this theory. The other band members noticed that something was up with him. He wasn't out partying anymore. Paul Prenter wasn't hired for the tour. (Paul Prenter also died of AIDS in 1991) Freddie knew that this tour would be the last one!
Even though my above 'theory' would have a doctor telling Freddie that he had tested positive for HIV in late 1985 or early 1986, that doctor would have told him that the test result may not be so & He would have had to go for multiple tests - and when test result after test result would have come back positive throughout 1986, perhaps Freddie didn't want to hear it again. Perhaps that is why Mary Austin says she received a call from his GP telling her that Freddie wasn't returning his calls and to tell Freddie to call back him? (Do you recall a tabloid story in The Sun (sept 1986) alleging that Freddie had recently
taken an AIDS test and Freddie angrily responding: Does it look like I'm Dying?)
Early 1987, coincidentally, saw the development of a newer and more reliable HIV test called the Western Blot. It was a much more accurate test than the ELISA. My hypothesis is that Freddie was probably alerted to his HIV status a year and a half earlier in 1985. He had gone for test after test throughout 1986 and finally, in the Spring of 1987, along with a lymphnode b