On Wednesday, Nov. 24, 1991, Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the iconic British band Queen, died at 45 because of the AIDs crisis.

Mercury was born in Tanzania, formerly Zanzibar, to Indian parents on Sept. 5, 1946, as Farrokh Bulsara. Queen formed in 1971 and signed their first recording contract with EMI in 1973, the same year they released their first album named after the band, Queen.

Queen would release the single "Bohemian Rhapsody" in 1975, then "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions" would be released in 1977. Queen was the first British band to have a single at number 1 in the charts twice, with "Bohemian Rhapsody" hitting that spot for a second time following Mercury's death.

Only a day before his death on Nov. 23, 1991, Mercury released a message to the press after much speculation that he had AIDs. His bandmates, Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon were informed of Mercury’s diagnosis two years prior.

“Following enormous conjecture in the press, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private in order to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has now come for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth, and I hope everyone will join with me, my doctors, and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease,” Mercury wrote.

A BBC documentary, “Freddie Mercury: The Final Act”, will be released on Nov. 17, 2021, and is a story “told alongside the experiences of those who tested positive for HIV and lost loved ones during the same period.” The documentary details the concluding chapter of Mercury’s life.

HIV/AIDS activists in Nairobi April 25, 2012
HIV/AIDS activists in Nairobi April 25, 2012 AFP / TONY KARUMBA

In 2020, there were around 30.2 million to 45.1 million people living with HIV/AIDs. Death estimates range from 480,000 to 1.0 million people globally who died of HIV/AIDs in 2020. It is also estimated that between 55.9 million and 110 million people have become infected since the start of the HIV/AIDs epidemic.

The disease carries a lot of stigmas with it due to its association with queer people, particularly gay men. Those stigmas led to global inaction for years with many dying in the 80s before the epidemic was taken seriously.