Bohemian Rhapsody premiere disrupted by HIV protest

The world premiere of Bohemian Rhapsody has been interrupted by a demonstration against cuts to the National Health Service which affect HIV treatment.

The film, which chronicles singer and bisexual icon Freddie Mercury’s rise to fame, has been criticised for its alleged straightwashing and lack of focus on HIV.

The British star became the most famous victim of the AIDS crisis when he died in 1991.

It was found in June that nearly one in four gay men seeking preventative anti-HIV drug PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) in England cannot access it.

A shot from Bohemian Rhapsody (Twentieth Century Fox)

Campaigners from ACT UP London — a group fighting to end HIV — and the NHS Anti-Swindle Team, which wants to maintain a publicly run NHS, united to protest on the film’s purple carpet outside Wembley Arena on Tuesday (October 23).

Dressed in clothes reading: “Don’t Cut Me Now!” and “Save Our NHS,” the demonstrators chanted “HIV stigma is real life — not just fantasy” — a play on the lyric from “Bohemian Rhapsody” — before launching into a specially written version of the hit Queen song “Don’t Stop Me Now,” with the help of a rainbow microphone.

They sang: “Don’t cut me now / I’m entitled to free healthcare / I don’t pay at all.

The demonstrators lying on the purple carpet (Levi Hinds)

“Don’t cut me now / If I wanted US healthcare / I’d give Branson a call.

“Don’t cut me now – ’cause we’re having a s**t time / Don’t cut me now – yes we’re having a sick time / I don’t wanna die at all!” the song concluded.

Hywel ap Dafydd from ACT UP London told PinkNews that the dissemination of PrEP was crucial to stopping more deaths like Mercury’s.

“I’ve been living with HIV for the past eight years” (Levi Hinds)

“Queen was the soundtrack of my childhood,” he said. “Freddie died when I was twelve; 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 save 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.”

Mercury died in 1990 (Levi Hinds)

Another member of ACT UP London, Jeremy Goldstein, said Mercury “was a migrant who died from AIDS and today HIV+ migrants are some of the most oppressed in the HIV / AIDS community.”

“We are here today to highlight the ongoing crisis,” he explained, before adding: “We demand that all HIV+ migrants are treated with utmost dignity, that HIV services stop being closed down and an end to all illegal detention of HIV+ migrants.”

YouTube Music also made a contribution to the cause, placing performers at 33 locations on the London Underground and pledging to match all the money gathered and donate the proceeds to the Mercury Phoenix Trust, which fights against HIV and AIDS across the world.

Vernon Everitt, managing director of customers at Transport for London, said that the day-long event was “a great collaboration for us, which is also helping to raise money for a thoroughly worthy cause.”

The news of YouTube Music’s charitable donation was added after publication.