Activists from ACT UP LONDON showed up at the London premiere of Bohemian Rhapsody, the biopic dedicated to renowned bisexual rock star and Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury, who died of AIDS complications in 1991.
The film’s first initial trailer sparked outrage from HIV activists for its minimal display of Freddie’s sexuality, as well as the stigma he received publicly for it. Activists were also vocal about the lack of regard for Freddie’s HIV diagnoses. While the film itself did speak on the issue, filmmakers argue they were adamant about telling the real story — and in real life, Mercury himself spoke little about it.
Regardless, activists showed up to the premiere protesting the silence Bohemian Rhapsody reflects on the virus, as well as Mercury’s giant role in shedding light on the AIDS crisis.
ACT UP organizers argue that the film neglected an opportunity to speak heavily on the impact of HIV, which still effects so many lives today. They also want to bring a voice to the countless of folks who can’t afford medication — the kind which was unavailable at the time Mercury passed away.
Eighteen-year-old Kenza Simon says she’s “involved in Act Up London because it is very important for me to fight for our rights. As an LGBT woman who was born in a century where AIDS medicine is more accessible for people, I feel lucky but I realize that we still have a lot to do even in 2018. Our aims changed, AIDS not. This is the reason why I want to be dedicated to this struggle. Activism change the world, let’s do this.”
“Queen was the soundtrack of my childhood,” Hywel ap Dafydd of ACT UP LONDON said in a press release. “Freddie died when I was 12, it was the first time I heard of AIDS and HIV. I’ve been living with HIV for the past eight years thanks to medication that came too late to safe Freddie and the millions of people who died because of AIDS. There’s a drug called PrEP which stops people from catching HIV but the NHS rations it so not everyone who needs it can get it. It’s disgraceful that the NHS denies people this opportunity that neither I nor Freddie had.”
“Much has changed since then but our sexual health is still under pressure,” said activist Han Smith. “Due to price gouging by greedy pharmaceutical companies, our NHS rations access to new medication for Hep C and HIV while yet another sexual health service bites the dust. We want access to HIV and Hep C drugs for all. We want stigma education for all. We want sexual health clinics for all. We want it all and we want it now.”
In an effort to highlight the need for access to proper healthcare, ACT UP activists chanted new lyrics to Mercury's song "Don’t Stop Me Now."
The new lyrics ended up being "Don’t Cut Me Now," chanting that "HIV Stigma is real life – not just fantasy." Here are the rest:
Don’t cut me now
I’m entitled to free healthcare
I don’t pay at all.
Don’t cut me now
If I wanted U.S. healthcare
I’d give Branson a call.
Don’t cut me now – ’cause we’re having a shit time