“God help those who have this disease with no money” - Freddie Mercury
HIV and Infectious Diseases Rock icon, Freddie Mercury tragically died in 1991, from AIDS-related illness. At that time, AIDS was a stigmatised illness, and understanding was limited. People with the condition were often marginalised.
The Mercury Phoenix Trust was set up in the wake of Freddie’s death by his fellow band members, Roger Taylor and Brian May, together with their manager, Jim Beach, to commemorate his name and to join the worldwide fight against AIDS.
Why we support grass roots organisations
Since 1992, the Mercury Phoenix Trust (MPT) has supported over 1,000 HIV/AIDS projects and donated over $17 million in 56 countries, mainly in the developing world, reaching countless numbers of lives. We assess, vet and fund predominantly smaller organisations as they are effective in areas which governments, larger NGOs and markets often don’t reach. These innovative and resilient organisations understand local complexities and align their strategies with global HIV/AIDS objectives.
AIDS related trauma can have a lasting, mental effect on staff
We are proud to be associated with so many of these quiet heroes working at grassroots level who live with the daily realities of HIV/AIDS. These teams work against immeasurable odds with limited resources, and are often in need of counselling themselves for the traumas they see and are associated with. We salute these truly remarkable people.
Over the years, we have seen the reward of partnering with community-based organisations. They understand customs, traditions and local leadership structures and they are able to communicate critical messages in a way that is meaningful and has the effect of changing behaviour.
Local staff make great role models for promoting sexual health and female empowerment
The staff at these organisations come from and live in the communities they serve, so they know their beneficiaries, they are personally invested in the work and they understand barriers the community members face in accessing services. They have lean and efficient budgets and despite cyclical funding, they remain committed to their communities, both in service provision and role modelling healthy behaviours.
Through appropriately tailored interventions, these organisations carry out the heart of the MPT’s philosophy of “Education and Awareness”, promoting healthy living and safe sexual practices. Services often include: prevention of mother-to-child transmission, ensuring adolescent-friendly health services, HIV-testing, health campaigns, follow-ups that ensure retention on treatment, and empowering women and girls to make their own life choices.
We have seen (especially in Africa) the success of the many peer-educator programmes we have supported, which demonstrate how youth are seizing the initiative in the fight against HIV/AIDS and leading the way.
They also provide a host of wrap-around interventions to help families overcome barriers in making healthy choices and accessing services. These include home visits, where babies and children are weighed and checked for malnutrition; running HIV support groups; referring instances of abuse to social services; helping people to become economically active; the list goes on. The UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets would not be possible without this sector of civil society.
A global army of Queen fans support the mission to raise awareness of AIDS
The work of the trust is made possible through generous donors, invaluable partnerships with business and wonderful individuals who do some crazy fundraising, such as “Freddie for a Day”. Thank you to all those who support us, especially the army of Queen fans around the world.
On this 30th World AIDS day, we remember those who died young; those cut from the arts by HIV/AIDS ; the many performers who died before their time. This is the legacy we strive to uphold as we all join in the fight against this – still unbeaten – scourge, which has caused such loss and heartbreak.
People are too scared to get tested for AIDS; when they find out it’s too late
There have been huge changes in terms of awareness, treatment and care, but the stigma, ignorance and discrimination widespread in 1991 is sadly still prevalent 27 years later. While much has been accomplished, the fight is still crucial. Each year, a new generation is at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and it is their right to be aware, to know their status and to protect themselves. In many countries, people are still afraid to get tested, finding out too late that they have full-blown AIDS.
Freddie’s legacy and Queen’s music remain infused into the values of the Mercury Phoenix Trust, with the passion and power behind the music forming the bedrock of the trust. Through grassroots movements, events and social media the MPT invites all to participate, providing a platform for especially the youth to be heard and empowered. A lot has been achieved, there is a great deal still to do, we must fight on. Please join us.
Photo credit for article: Mercury Phoenix Trust