new tv series on HIV/AIDS in Sweden

"It's time to mourn these beautiful young men"

4:10 min

It is 25 years since the first death from AIDS was reported in Sweden, and writer Jonas Gardell and director Simon Kaijser da Silva are taking television audiences back to the 1980s - when what was called the "gay plague" first hit Sweden.

Writer Jonas Gardell has documented how the disease affected his generation - gay men who found freedom in Stockholm in the 1980s, after the sexual revolution and at the start of the gay rights era. The result is a trilogy of novels and a television miniseries "Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar", translated directly as "never dry tears without gloves". The show and book are based on real life events, and people Gardell knew.

"In the past 20 years, we've stopped talking about HIV and AIDS. I think it's time to remember and I think it's time to mourn those beautiful young men who were not allowed to live their life", he told Radio Sweden.

The first part of the miniseries airs on Swedish Television (SVT) this autumn, but the show is far from a mere trip down memory lane. Gardell says it is a reminder of a darker part of Sweden's history. The emergence of AIDS bred a culture of fear and led to the stigmatisation of its sufferers and of homosexual men in general.

"People in Sweden are not aware of how society treated its citizens only 25 years ago. Now that it's more accepted to be gay in Sweden, it's important to remember that this freedom and these human rights were fought for with lots of personal courage", says Gardell.

Gardell's work is a fictionalized documentary which, not unlike American writer Tony Kushner's play "Angels in America", focuses on a romance between two young men at the outbreak of the AIDS scare. Kushner's play was lauded for giving audiences an insight into the experience for those who lived with and died of AIDS when it first hit. For director Simon Kaijser Da Silva, reading Gardell's script offered him an insight that was uncomfortable.

"I think it's strange when I look back at how unsympathetic the rest of society was to the victims of AIDS. Maybe now it's time - not to point the finger and say "you didn't care"- but to make people realise that this was going on, and they didn't do anything", says da Silva.