Forums > Queen - General Discussion > Freddie Mercury's HIV Diagnosis – Some Insight – 1985 to 1987

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Posted: 02 Oct 11, 06:27 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

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
him?

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
death sentence.

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

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Posted: 02 Oct 11, 11:10 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Very interesting. Thank you.


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Posted: 02 Oct 11, 11:24 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Thanks for the very interesting information.


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Posted: 02 Oct 11, 11:29 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Excellent detective work !

My question is - if Freddie was HIV positive in early 1986, then how did he manage to get health insurance for the Magic tour?

This leads to many related questions that will most likely go unanswered.


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Posted: 02 Oct 11, 11:50 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

good post!

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Posted: 02 Oct 11, 12:18 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

My question is when do you think he contracted the virus? My guess is sometime in 1984 when he spent lots of time Munich.


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Posted: 02 Oct 11, 13:50 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Barbara Valentin claimed in one of the biographies that Freddie was first tested in 1985 and already had developed minor unexplained and unusual physical symptoms.  That makes sense as the diagnosis we know about was made based on KS, an AIDS defining illness, which indicates an advanced course of infection which was likely preceded by other symptoms.

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Posted: 02 Oct 11, 13:52 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Sir GH wrote: Excellent detective work !

My question is - if Freddie was HIV positive in early 1986, then how did he manage to get health insurance for the Magic tour?

This leads to many related questions that will most likely go unanswered.
=====================

I understood the OP to have implied that he didn't seek insurance, and that's why his behaviour changed and he took fewer risks during his personal time.

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Posted: 02 Oct 11, 14:23 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

That'd make sense.


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Posted: 02 Oct 11, 19:01 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I think up to the Magic Tour, it was just lingering suspicions that he might have HIV but there was a hope he could escape this fate.  You can see in the Wembley DVDs that he was still in high spirits.  However, in the music videos for the Miracle album he looked very sombre.  The contrast in mood is very clear.

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Posted: 02 Oct 11, 19:20 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I hate this fucking thread.


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Posted: 02 Oct 11, 21:49 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I  know the Jim Hutton book is taken with a grain of salt. But according to that book Freddie was worried that he might have the virus, but was diagnosed in 1987. oh and I hate this thread too. It's a funny thing to speculate about unless you have real info from those around Freddie. So i'm just sharing info i think i remember from someone close to Freddie.

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Posted: 02 Oct 11, 22:33 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Just because Hutton found out in 1987 doesn't mean Mercury found out in 1987.

I really wish people would stop taking these tell-all books as gospel.


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Posted: 03 Oct 11, 01:12 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Personally I think Freddie was infected in 1984 and during that year, the concerts in"sun city", he came to spit blood to sing, canceling a concert, it had never happened inany previous tour, even with a sorry state in the voice, as in Japan 1979. You have to understand that HIV, once entered the body, causes symptoms immediately (thoughsimilar to a normal cold), then symptoms disappear and then reappear years later.

On the other hand, we must remember that one of the places where there are higher rates of AIDS infection, it is precisely South Africa (30% to 50%), in fact, many doctorshave said repeatedly that the virus spread from South Africa to Europe and then the world, this because the probability of infection rate in South Africa during the 80's, was very high (and still is to this day)

Of course I do not think Freddie is quite realize until months later, it is quite plausible that the first signs have appeared in late 1985, and to be confirmed in 1986.


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Posted: 03 Oct 11, 01:23 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

neokaden wrote: Personally I think Freddie was infected in 1984 and during that year, the concerts in"sun city", he came to spit blood to sing, canceling a concert, it had never happened inany previous tour, even with a sorry state in the voice, as in Japan 1979. You have to understand that HIV, once entered the body, causes symptoms immediately (thoughsimilar to a normal cold), then symptoms disappear and then reappear years later.

On the other hand, we must remember that one of the places where there are higher rates of AIDS infection, it is precisely South Africa (30% to 50%), in fact, many doctorshave said repeatedly that the virus spread from South Africa to Europe and then the world, this because the probability of infection rate in South Africa during the 80's, was very high (and still is to this day)

Of course I do not think Freddie is quite realize until months later, it is quite plausible that the first signs have appeared in late 1985, and to be confirmed in 1986.
=========

The whole blood-spitting thing was related to nodule problems.


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Posted: 03 Oct 11, 01:32 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I doubt it, Freddie had previously had many problems resulting from vocal nodules, reaching a climax in Japan-1979, but never got to spit blood.

Instead, spitting blood, if it seems more consistent with the idea that may have had a throat infection, caused by inflammation of the lymph nodes, which is the initial symptom of a person recently infected with HIV.


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Posted: 03 Oct 11, 01:39 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Him spitting blood has nothing to with lymph nodes or HIV/AIDS. That blood-spitting was nodule related. At least one of the nodules had to have burst or ruptured from the strain of singing. Listen to his voice pre-Sun City, then in 1985--his tone cleared up.


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Posted: 03 Oct 11, 02:07 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Gregsynth wrote: Him spitting blood has nothing to with lymph nodes or HIV/AIDS. That blood-spitting was nodule related. At least one of the nodules had to have burst or ruptured from the strain of singing. Listen to his voice pre-Sun City, then in 1985--his tone cleared up.

==========

That blood spitting was told in the press. So do you believe it? As Peter Freestone told in your 'debate' he can't remember it and if it had happened he would. On the other hand.... maybe Peter wasn't there at the moment.


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Posted: 03 Oct 11, 03:10 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

People emailed me personally and/or Youtube messaged me this information. I also had this confirmed at the Breakthru 2011 Queen convention--someone told me that a friend of theirs attended a couple of the Sun City shows--and Freddie lost his voice at one of them and was coughing up stuff on stage.

I also googled "spitting blood" and some results led to stuff related to smoking and throat/lung irritation (since Freddie was a smoker--this could also be a reason).


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Posted: 03 Oct 11, 06:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Thanks for this thread btw.

All i can say is that when i was at the Knebworth gig i noticed something different about Freddie.Couldnt put my finger on it tho.You see,when i used to go to gigs,i liked to be as close to the stage as i can get.So that i can see the band with my own two eyes.Rather than look at a screen or whatever.I have been that close in the past that i have been hit in the face with Roger's sweat at one of his The Cross gigs.I have also been hit in the face with one of Freddie's towels during the Hot Space tour.

I just remember looking at Freddie during the Knebworth gig and thinking"There's something wrong with you".It wasnt what he was doing onstage.Cos that was fine.It was something in the way he looked.


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