Was told he had three months to live

Svona fólk – Plágan or People Like That – The Plague, documentary about the HIV epidemic in Iceland will be shown at cinema Bíó Paradis this Sunday, as a part of Reykjavík Pride 2019. Donni Gíslason is one of the people who tells his story in the film. Donni tested HIV-positive in 1985, when he was 25 years old, and ten years later his immune system had collapsed, he was losing his eyesight and the doctors told him he had, at most, three months to live. Then a miracle happened.

Donni Gíslason today.

New HIV drugs arrived and after a bit of a struggle Donni was put on a medication cocktail that saved his life. His vision is still impaired but the HIV virus is no longer detectable in his blood. How does it feel to be given a new lease on life after a death sentence?

When Donni tested positive for HIV back in 1985 there was a lot of prejudice and fear for AIDS in society and he says some people treated him like he was radioactive.
“It was a a huge stigma,” he says. “There was a lot of fear and uncertainity regarding AIDS in that time, as it was a new disease and nobody really knew for sure how it got transmitted and how it would evolve.
I am lucky enough to have a very supportive and understanding family and they all supported me as best they could. The information people got about the disease and the risk of getting it was very misleading at that time, people thought they had to take all kinds of precautions to be able to avoid getting infected from someone who had tested positive for HIV. It was a bit mental.”

“Other gays treated me like I was radioactive and didn’t want to go anywhere near me.”

Donni says that when people talk about these times now it is sometimes forgotten that other gays also regarded HIV as a stigma and much fear governed the gay community.
“Other gays treated me like I was radioactive and didn’t want to go anywhere near me. Some would even take the stand of warning others about who might possibly be infected of the PLAGUE as some liked to call it, be it true or just plain gossip. That was a shock for many of us and it hurt deeply and it shattered to a degree our small gay community at some point,” he says. “But my real friends stuck by me and I did not lose any of them, I’m grateful for that.”

Never believed he was dying

Getting diagnosed with the HIV virus was in that time a death sentence, there was no cure and even the doctors did not know much about the disease. Donni says that inspite of that he never really believed that he was going to die.
“Somehow I managed to cling to hope through this all,” he says. “I did not have any symptoms for years, even though the virus vas detected in my blood, but I never felt that I was ill. It was not until almost ten years after the diagnose that I started to lose my health.”

One of the consequences of the disease was that ten years after the diagnose Donni started to lose his eyesight as a result of his immune system collapsing.
“In 1995, eight months before the first HIV drugs were made available, I went in to the stage of full blown AIDS,” he explains. “When they became available in Iceland my doctor did not want me to have them as I was too far gone with the disease. It was thanks to another doctor, Anna Þórisdóttir who had specialised in the disease, that I was allowed to try the new drugs even though I was considered an incurable case.”

At that stage Donni and his family were prepared for him passing away in a few weeks, but he says it never felt real to him that he was dying.
“The immune system had totally collapsed, I was down to 55 kilos, the family had been summoned to a meeting with the doctors to hear the death sentence, but as weirdly as it sounds I never really believed it deep down.

“It was a fantastic feeling. But it also felt unreal and for a while I went into a crisis not knowing what I was supposed to do with this new life.”

I paid lip service to the doctors and sociologists who were telling me this, but I never felt that I was really dying. I had gone for all kinds of holistic medicines, drank a lot of herbal concoctions and tried everything I possibly could think of to counteract the disease. I had all the medical attention and stuff in my home for the last six months of this period and when my family went to the hospital to discuss my death I stayed at home and painted the kitchen walls.

I just found the thought of dying absurd, even though I had already said goodbye to a lot of my friends who had died from the disease. Looking back it feels as I was in somekind of bubble where the reality of it did not reach me.”

A new lease on life

Donni says that he has always been a fighter and he just was not ready to lose the fight with death. Even his deterioating eyesight did not put him off the fighting track.

“When my immune system had collapsed completely, I was told I had two T-cells in my body at the time instead of the 6-800 T-cells you have when you are fully healthy well, but I told the doctor that I visualized these two T-cells working out at the Gym and they would conquere in the end. The most serious effect of this collapse of the immune system was that a virus which is called CMV, which a lot of people have in their bodies but is not doing you any harm if you are healthy, started attacking my eyesight which was a known side effect of AIDS. The doctors tried to put me on medication for that, I had to get liquid drug in my veins for four hours every day to try to keep my eyesight. The thing is, and it was probably an oversight by the doctors not to realise it at the time, that when I started to get the drug cocktail for the AIDS they kept giving me this drug for my eyes, which I was told years later was a mistake and that part of the reason I am visually impaired was caused by the counteraction of these different drugs. I don’t blame anyone for this, it was all such a new territory for the doctors that they could not have known.”

The recovery was quick, a year after the treatment with the new drugs started Donni was fit enough to start travelling and start life a new. How was the feeling to be able to do all the things he had stopped being able to do and no longer have death hanging over his head?
“It was a fantastic feeling,” Donni says. “But it also felt unreal and for a while I went into a crisis not knowing what I was supposed to do with this new life. I also experienced survivor guilt; why was I given a new lease on life when so many of my friends had died? It is a known syndrome with survivors, both from diseases and wars, and it was a very profound experience to go through. It was not until I went for a visit to my friends in the States for two months that I could get rid of the guilt. I met a lot of people who had been diagnosed, went to meetings at AIDS organisations and got a better feeling for how it had effected people. It was really liberating to see the whole picture of how the disease had evolved, not just the Icelandic side of it.”

Dedicated single

Donnis eyesight continued getting worse even though he got better from the disease and ten years later he was declared legally blind, which is defined as sight below 10%. He says that of course did limit his choices of education and jobs, but that he has never let that handicap stop him.

“I studied to become a counselor for blind people and that is my job today,” he explains. “I am a recovering alcholic and have been for twenty years now, and the support and self work I have gone through to get sober has helped me enourmously, both while I was sick and when I started getting better. So I have experienced it myself how important it is to have good counselors when you are battling some kind of difficulty.”

Donni is one of the people interviewed in Hrafnhildur Gunnarsdóttir´s  documentary series Svona fólk or People Like That, a part of the project titled Svona fólk – Plágan will be shown at cinema Bíó Paradis this Pride and even though he is very open about his experience of the disease and recovery he admits that one question the film maker asked him on camera made him somehow uncomfortable.

The second part of the documentary Svona fólk will be shown at Bíó Paradís during Reykjavík Pride.

“She asked me if it had affected my love live to have been an AIDS patient and must admit it caught me little off guard, how does one answer that?” he says. “After she left I started wondering if it had made me more of a loner, but I’m not sure. I have thought about it, of course, but I have always been a loner in that sense even though I’m very social, and I don’t think that has gotten worse by the disease. I find it harder to connect to people as I get older, I’m a homebody and very happy in my own company. I never understood this pressure from society that everyone should be in a relationship. I don’t think that suits everyone. The longest relationship I have been in was when I was HIV positive and it lasted for ten years, so I don’t think the diagnose made me afraid of love. I have a very good life today, I like my work, have a wonderful family and friends and I don´t really feel any need for a close relationship. That has nothing to do with being an AIDS survivor, it’s just who I am.”

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.

    Check out Blush’s website: https://blush.is/

    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.

        Our unique position at the center of the capital markets allows us to see firsthand how these values have redefined corporate culture and success, deepening and accelerating our own commitment to champion inclusive growth and prosperity, as we strive to create more equitable opportunities to help people of all backgrounds reach their full potential. Most notably, we published our diversity statistics for the first time in 2020. These metrics serve as a quantitative assessment of where we are today and help determine what strategies we need to adopt to enhance diversity in the workplace. We recognize that we have much work to do, but we are steadfast in our commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive culture—one that reflects the communities in which we live, allows all employees to be their true, authentic selves and fosters individual growth and achievement.

        As we move forward together, we will continue advancing diverse ideas and perspectives that help fulfill the promise of a more inclusive and prosperous world. We aim to set the pace for rethinking capital markets and economies anywhere and everywhere. To learn more about the company, technology solutions and career opportunities, visit us on LinkedIn, on Twitter @Nasdaq, or at www.nasdaq.com.

        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
        comes from 2.000 meters within the earth where seawater and freshwater converge in a tectonic realm of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals—the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

        From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing two hotels, three restaurants, three
        geothermal lagoons, a subterranean spa, a renowned line of skin care, a thriving research center, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

        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.

        The Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

        - 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.

        The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

        Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

        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.

        Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

        More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

        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.

          - for all your Apple needs

          From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

          Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
          For all your Apple needs. We are here.

          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.

          Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
          This is our secret and you are in on it

          You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

          Contact Us

          Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.