World AIDS Day: Our past struggle, a time to remember

Today, 1st of December, is the World AIDS Day. Sigurður Júlíus Guðmundsson has some thoughts on the disease that has impacted the queer community in such a deep way.

The 31st of October marked the 40th anniversary of the release of one of the greatest rock songs in music history. Millions, even billions, of people have heard the song. So it’s kind of strange to come across a person who hasn’t heard the song or even it’s name, “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Queen is considered one of the greatest rock bands of all time.
Queen is considered one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

Released in 1975 by the band Queen the song was almost rejected by the record company because of its unusual sound and length – the song was so long that executives feared it wouldn’t get airtime. At almost 6 minutes long, it was much longer than the average pop song of the time and because of that radio stations were indeed hesitant to play it. But the song got air time on a handful of radio stations and became demanded by listeners. The record company and mainstream radio therefore had to accept the song. And soon it became the most popular song in the UK as well as being very big in many other countries, eventually becoming one of the most revered songs in popular music history.

For most people, that is the end of the story behind the song. We all sing along to the weird lyrics, “Mama, just killed a man, put a gun against his head. Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead…” and so on. Many people know the lyrics well enough to recite the song flawlessly at parties when it’s played. And then it’s finished and people go on with their lives.

But for some of us, there is a deeper story to the song, a much deeper story. Bear in mind that I love music. I love to sing. I love Queen and I have always placed the band’s singer Freddie Mercury on such a high pedestal that I never wanted to sing his songs publicly, until my choir, The Reykjavík Queer Choir, decided to do a rendition of the song and I was forced to break my rule and take part in honoring the song and it’s writer. It ended up being one of my prouder moments, standing in front of a crowd of people with my choir mates and singing this amazing song drenched in queer history.

And that is the part of the story behind the song that becomes forgotten. There are so many connections to the LGBTQIA+ community, culture and history bound to this song that most people never realize. Of course many people know that Freddie Mercury was considered to be gay, although he never used the word “gay” to describe himself and in fact considered himself bisexual, having had long-term meaningful relationships with both men and women. Regardless, he definitely was not straight.

The song itself was written around the same time as Freddie was entering into his first same-sex relationship. And Brian May, Queen’s legendary guitarist has said that, although Freddie never explicitly said anything about it, he always believed that the intense lyrics and the song itself was about his inner turmoil leading up to his relationship with another man. For a queer person listening to the song, it doesn’t take much to identify with the lyrics. The heartache, the rejection, the loneliness, and the eventual rebellion and reclaiming of the self. It’s a theme that we all know from coming out to ourselves and making the choice to live free of the judgment of other people.

I listened to the song for the umpteenth time on the 31st of October, alone in my office and I was overwhelmed by emotions; listening to this legendary man singing and describing all the emotions and turmoil that I myself experienced before accepting myself as a queer man brought me to tears. Thinking about the eventual fate of Freddie and the utter pointlessness of his death.

Freddie Mercury died from bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS on the 24th of November 1991. It would be another five years until an effective drug to combat the symptoms of HIV/AIDS was released. By that time, millions of people had died from the disease.

“I listened to the song for the umpteenth time on the 31st of October, alone in my office and…it brought me to tears. Thinking about the eventual fate of Freddie and the utter pointlessness of his death.”

The sad thing about the AIDS epidemic was how long it took governments and health officials to start focusing on research and putting adequate funding into combating the disease. Many feel that the lack of interest in the disease was mainly due to the labeling of AIDS as a gay disease. Politicians often talked about it as a behavioral problem and that homosexuals should “just keep it in their pants”. Not much talk went into the fact that anyone could become infected and that the use of condoms would greatly reduce the risk of infection.

Perhaps the focus on queer people had to do with the fact that the queer community, at least in western societies and especially in the USA, was in the forefront of the fight to get governments to join the battle against the disease. The epidemic thrust queer activists into the spotlight and organizations were forced to get organized like never before. The need for political involvement became far more necessary and education a crucial part of the operations.

The fact remains that the complacency of the majority of people towards the disease may have resulted in millions of unnecessary deaths.

The fact that Freddy Mercury died from a disease, that was virtually ignored for so many years while millions of people died from it, makes me both frustrated and sad. But Freddie’s death was not the end of his legacy. His music lives on and inspires and gives hope to people.
The fact that my idol Freddy Mercury died from a disease, that was virtually ignored for so many years while millions of people died from it, makes me both frustrated and sad. But Freddie’s death was not the end of his legacy. His music lives on and inspires and gives hope to people around the world.

If proper funding and research would have started in the beginning of the epidemic it might have resulted in millions of lives saved. This and the sad fact that the disease left a huge gap in an entire generation of queer people has made HIV/AIDS one of the most influential, yet horrific, battles of queer rights history.

And the battle is far from over.

To this date, there still is no known cure for the virus. Although drugs can halt the virus and render it effectively undetectable in the body and people in most western societies living with the virus live relatively full lives, the drugs do have side effects that may not be so pleasant. And they are not cheap. In less developed countries people may not even have access to the drugs needed to keep them alive and others may not be able to afford them.

For those reasons and many more today is the perfect time to take a moment and remember those people who came before us and the culture that they created and we inherited. To remember those who cannot be with us because they were not deemed equal enough to get the same treatment as others. To remember our friends, our loved ones and our idols who didn’t survive the fight to live equal. It is important for us to remember their sacrifice and the millions who lost their lives so that we could live on and live more free; lives free of shame. To remember that we once had to fight for our lives when the rest of the world looked away. To remember so that we don’t wake up one day and find that society has changed its mind about us once again and isn’t as welcoming towards us as it is now.

Today, on World AIDS DayThe HIV Iceland organization will host an open house at their community center on Hverfisgata 69, in Reykjavík, between 15 and 18PM, to raise awareness and show support for people living with HIV. It is the perfect time to show up to remember together that our little queer community has a common history and culture that we should celebrate and be proud of.

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Á. Óskarsson
Á. Óskarsson

Á. Óskarsson offers a variety of products and services to sports centers, swimming pools, schools, kindergartens, and the general public. The company specializes in sport-related products, activity-focused games, and a wide range of solutions for sports facilities.

Á. Óskarsson has been involved in numerous big projects related to building sports facilities and has made it their benchmark to offer good quality products and equipment since the company was founded.

See links to social media in the upper left-hand corner


Á. Óskarsson selur fjölbreytt vöruúrval fyrir íþróttahús, sundlaugar, skóla og leikskóla og einnig ýmsar vörur til einkaafnota. Fyrirtækið selur vörur til íþróttaiðkunnar og leikja ásamt því að bjóða upp á ýmsar lausnir fyrir íþróttamannvirki.

Á. Óskarsson hefur komið að fjölda stórra verkefna við byggingu íþróttamannvirkja og hefur frá stofnun kappkostað að bjóða vandaðar og endingargóðar vörur.

Tenglar á samfélagsmiðla eru í efra horninu vinstra megin.



    Blush was founded in 2011 when it started selling high quality sex products. The goal from the beginning was to change the market and take the discussion about sex products to a higher level. Today Blush provides professional services in a pleasant environment that fulfills different needs, both for individuals and couples. Blush respects diversity and wants to set a good example in all of its messaging to target audiences. Sexual health and equality in sex is important and Blush wants to focus on those issues through education and open discussion. Blush works in a socially responsible manner for society, their customers and the environment.

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    Omnom Chocolate
    - award-winning chocolate maker

      Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

      Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

      Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

      In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

      At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.




        Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) is a global technology company serving the capital markets and other industries. Our diverse offering of data, analytics, software and services enables clients to optimize and execute their business vision with confidence.

        With over 4,300 employees in 39 offices around the world, at Nasdaq we all contribute to the success of the company and its culture, and each one of us has the ability to make a difference. When it comes to our core mission and values, we embrace the role of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) as a fundamental driver of our corporate growth, workplace culture and market development. We strive to create a culture that embraces the power of different perspectives—a culture where people’s unique backgrounds and different experiences helps us fuel innovation and support our clients around the world.

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        Blue Lagoon
        - One of the 25 Wonders of the World

        Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater
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        Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

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        - leading financial institution

        Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

        The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

        Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

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        Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

        It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

        Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

        - get inspired

        Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

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        VSÓ Ráðgjöf


          VSÓ Ráðgjöf er alhliða ráðgjafar- og verkfræðifyrirtæki sem leggur áherslu á trausta og faglega þjónustu sem tryggir viðskiptavinum hagkvæmustu lausnir hverju sinni, skilar raunverulegum árangri og stuðlar að samkeppnisforskoti.  Á skrifstofum VSÓ í Reykjavík og í Noregi starfar yfir 80 manna samhentur hópur verkfræðinga og annarra tæknimenntaðra starfsmanna.

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          Ísey skyr
          - once tasted never forgotten

          Our Story
          Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

          For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

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          This is our secret and you are in on it

          You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

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