Documentary: “Stockholm, 1982”


In relation to World Aids Day 2023, RFSL and RFSL Ungdom relaunched the documentary film “Stockholm, 1982” and it was shown in 15 branches around the country.

The documentary “Stockholm, 1982” features, among others, Steve Sjöquist, who has lived with HIV for 35 years and was the first in Sweden to receive anti-retroviral medicines and survive AIDS.

– In my generation, there is a collective trauma that we carry with us, which I think is so important that we communicate to young people. Because if you don’t know your history, you don’t know where you’re going either, says Steve Sjöquist.

In 1979, the stairs of the National Board of Health and Welfare were occupied and the disease label for homosexuality was removed. But, the homosexual revolution came to a halt only a few years later when HIV came to Sweden. During the 80s and 90s, images of gay men with AIDS were spread in the media. Scare propaganda was widespread and the picture that was shown was rarely based on facts. It led to a harsh climate for those who were not heterosexual, and built a stigma around HIV.

In the film, three gay men talk about what it was like to be young, in love and horny in a world where death was constantly present.

Cast: Steve Sjöquist, Stefan Handreck , Fredrik Apollo Asplund

Director: Palmer Lydebrant

Producer: Siri Hjorton Wagner

Executive producer: Therese Sandin

Through the documentary, RFSL and RFSL Ungdom want to give an insight into what life and the struggle looked like for homosexuals in Sweden. Important target groups we want to reach are young men and trans people who have sex with men, and who were born after HIV arrived.

Short documentaries

RFSL wants to preserve HIV history in Sweden. Therefore, we have also interviewed additional people about the time when HIV came to Sweden.

Ola Lindström

Ola Lindström grew up in the countryside during the 80s. In the early 2000s, he received his HIV diagnosis. In an interview with Palmer Lydebrant and RFSL, he talks about the relationships and support from colleagues at the restaurant where he worked and about a specific phone call from the restaurant’s butler who stayed with him. You can see the film here.

Walter Heidkampf

Walter Heidkampf received his HIV diagnosis in 1989 and has since worked with HIV prevention. In this short documentary, he tells about the night he received his HIV diagnosis and about his ex-boyfriend Bengt, who was there for him in that difficult moment. You can see the film here.

Jon Voss

Jon Voss is an activist and journalist and worked at the newspaper Revolt in 1982 when AIDS came to Sweden. Here he talks about the problem with the fact that in the gay world in the 80s people talked about being “clean and healthy” when there is no shame in not being healthy. Therefore, back then, people should refrain from testing themselves and behave like everyone is HIV positive, out of solidarity and as a counter-action to society talking about labelling and locking up those who were HIV positive. You can watch the film here.

Pehr Olov Pehrsson

Doctor Pehr-Olov Pehrson was the first to diagnose AIDS in Sweden. In this short documentary, he talks about what it was like to care for society’s undesirables and how he never considered backing down. He was there and did what needed to be done. You can see the film here.

About RFSL’s work on HIV prevention

RFSL has worked actively with HIV prevention since the 80s and sees today that an important part of the work is still to spread basic information about the virus to counteract prejudices. Much has happened since 1982. Today, an HIV diagnosis in Sweden is not a death sentence and treated HIV cannot be transmitted during sex, even if a condom is not used. We also have preventive HIV medicines, PrEP, which HIV-negative people can take to avoid getting HIV. You can read more about PrEP here.