The book I published in October 2018 is called, There are few who talk about them/Det är få som talar om dem.
This is a self portrait from 1991 by the late artist Lars Rading.
I met Lars in Greece, 1980. We were both on scholarships, he as an artist, and I as a writer.
Lars went to New York the year after, and he thought he was exposed to the virus in a Bathhouse, in New York, but he wasn´t sure.
Lars became a public spokesperson. He was often interviewed, there were television programs made about him, and he painted, cried and painted, to keep him self from breaking down.
At one point, as his health was declining, he said he was very tired of being the Positive HIV-positive, because that was often how he was portrayed; It is possible to live a good life and be creative even if you are HIV-positive, and so on.
During the last years of his life he met a man who was also HIV-positive, Börje, och they moved in together, and seemed very happy.
During the last months of his life, Lars planned for a fundraising auction of his art, together with his old partner Terje, so he could create a Culture fund in his own name.
I followed Lars for several years, off and on, just until he was leaving for Spain, where he and Börje were going for a holiday. The auction had just taken place, and had brought in much more money than expected.
Lars was very worried about that journey. He was afraid something would happen, and he called a number of friends the night before. He was by this time so weak that he had to sit down to brush his teeth, or to dry him self after a shower. But they left.
During the flight Lars became very sick and had to be carried off the plane. Börje carried him in to the apartment and sat beside Lars and held him up so he could breathe. He propped him up with pillows. Lars was now actively dying as his lungs were filling up, but he did not understand it. He kept on talking about a friend of theirs who needed their support .
Börje later told me that he afterwards understood that Lars was trying to hang on to the light. Börje kept on turning off the light so they could sleep, and Lars kept turning it on. But suddenly, half asleep, Börje realised that it was silent, and that Lars had died.
He panicked for a while, and then walked to the nearest hotel and said What do I do? It was in the middle of the night, but the man behind the desk said it was no problem – many tourists died there – so within an hour a doctor arrived, and some time later, Lars was taken away. It all happened very fast, and way too fast for Börje. The coffin arrived in Sweden two weeks later.
Lars left his art and the money he had to The Lars Rading HIV-Culture Fund, which was run by Noaks Ark, and his close friend Terje. It worked for many years, but is no longer active. Lars´s paintings were often sad, dark, and about death, and it became impossible to sell them, as the focus around HIV/AIDS changed and became more about living, than dying.
Börje passed away, a little bit more than two years later, in 1995. A tall gentle man, struggling to learn to live without Lars. Hoping to meet him again.