The message in Freddie Mercury’s silence

World Aid Day raises awareness around the globe. Photo: Courtesy UNAIDS

“Goodbye everybody – I’ve got to go, gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.”

These are some of the lines from one of the most famous songs in music history and looking back they seem hauntingly accurate. The song, written by Freddie Mercury, reached number one for the second time in 1991, staying there for five weeks following his death.

Mercury was a larger than life character and shocked the world by publicly announcing he was HIV positive one day before he died.

The legendary icon died at 45, from a type of bacterial pneumonia brought on by AIDS. He died in London, 20 years ago. Mercury is still well known for his flamboyant stage presence, powerful vocals and talented songwriting that has inspired millions.

With the anniversary of his death today, and the upcoming World AIDS Day next week, there are even more reports and research being published to raise awareness of the virus.

The purpose of World AIDS Day is to remind people around the world of the HIV and AIDS epidemic. It has been 30 years since AIDS was first reported, and it is estimated that today 34 million people are living with HIV around the globe.

World AIDS Day 2011 has a ‘looking forward’ theme with a focus on 2015.  The organisation, UNAIDS, which is a joint United Nations programme on HIV and AIDS, is leading the campaign with what they call ‘Getting to Zero’. The organisation claims “we have three main targets which are: zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths by 2015”.

UNAIDS is promoting a “smarter, faster, better campaign” to raise awareness of these targets. They may seem ambitious but with the global statistics of HIV and AIDS decreasing it might not be  impossible.

The total number of Scots with HIV is now 6,845 with 72% made up of males and 28% females. The main spread of HIV is mainly due to drug use and the sharing of needles and syringes.

The Scottish charity, Positive Help, has created services to help those who are affected by HIV and AIDS in the Edinburgh area. They provide a transport service, home support service and a children and young people befriending system. The befriending system is aimed at children from three to eighteen who are HIV positive, or have parents that are.

Angus Mackenzie from the charity claims, “the befriending system is very helpful to both children and teenagers, but also their parents.”

“There was one little boy we took to a festival and his reaction was just mind blowing, as if he’d never seen anything like it before.”

One of the biggest issues with HIV and AIDS is the embarrassment and taboo that still surrounds the virus toady. Mercury himself remained silent about his illness until one day before it killed him. Many suffer discrimination and feel restrictions in relationships with friends and family. This is what the befriending systems aims to prevent.

Despite the advances in life expectancy, Positive Help claims that those influenced by HIV still suffer physically, mentally and socially. Mental health issues are a problem with the virus as it can lead to ill health, depression, isolation and agoraphobia.