Monday 19 March 2018

Miss Panti: 'U2 gave me a few days' notice before Dublin gig - it only looked spontaneous'

A selfie taken on stage last night featuring band members, Imelda May and Panti. Source: U2 Twitter
A selfie taken on stage last night featuring band members, Imelda May and Panti. Source: U2 Twitter
U2 with Imelda May and Panti Bliss @ 3Arena, Dublin. Photo: Samy Mosher
Bono and Panti on stage at the 3Arena
Independent Newsdesk

Independent Newsdesk

Miss Panti has revealed that he only got a few days' notice before his triumphant appearance on stage with U2 at the 3Arena last weekend.

"I got a phone three or four days before the gig from Gavin Friday and he asked me to do it. It was that simple. That afternoon I went into the 3Arena and rehearsed it - the whole thing only looked spontaneous.

Bono and Panti on stage at the 3Arena
Bono and Panti on stage at the 3Arena

Panti Bliss was welcomed on stage by Bono and the gang to the tune of 'Mysterious Ways'.

Panti, otherwise known as gay rights activist Rory O'Neill, strutted down the stage in the 3 Arena.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Rory O'Neill said the whole experience "was once-in-a-lifetime stuff. After all, when is the next time you're going to see me stalking around the stage of the 3Arena? The after-show was amazing - the full U2 experience, blacked out cars, gardai convey - the works.

"I heard a great story afterwards about two girls who got a photo of the green wristbands at the door, so they went around the corner to a Tesco, got a plastic bag, fashioned a couple of wristbands out of it and went in. That's ingenuity."

Interviewed as part of World Aids Day, Rory, who is HIV Positive, revealed the shock of his diagnosis of HIV 20 years ago, claiming it felt like a "death sentence".

"I was diagnosed in 1995 and it was out of the blue, I wasn’t expecting it at all. It felt like a death sentence at the time. But 20 years is a long time. Then, I felt I was being handed a final notice. I very clearly remember my first visit to the clinic and it was like they were preparing you for the end. But 20 years is an incredibly long time in terms of treatments.

"I thought there was no way I would be here 20 years later."

Rory said there is still an incredible stigma over HIV and Aids in Ireland. 

"There is incredible stigma around HIV. The words HIV and AIDS terrifies people. That stops people getting tested. Most people don’t get tested because they still feel that will be the end of their world. They are also worried that the stigma around it. It is better to get tested, get treatment and you will become 'uninfectious', as the drugs are so advanced now."

Back in 1995 when he was first diagnosed, he had to take "36 pills every day and some of them would make you very sick". Now he's taking a single pill in the mornings.

When it comes to relationships, Rory believes it is a personal choice when to let partners know - providing all precautions are being taken.

“My own personal decision is to tell people three dates in. Let them get to know me first. That way it’s a little more difficult for them to get up and run away!

“If you are having safe sex with someone and the HIV is undetectable, you could argue it is none of their business. But it’s a complicated and difficult question. If you tell someone on your first date in the pub, that’s the end of the relationship. For most people, that is a barrier that they aren’t prepared to cross. It’s too much to take on."

He said the reason he is so open about his HIV positive status is because a there are so few people in the public eye living openly with HIV.

"People say I am very open about my HIV status. And that’s because of the stigma around it. You can count on the fingers of one hand the numbers of people in Ireland who are open about their HIV status.

"I oddly compare HIV to coming out as gay. What changed people's attitudes to homosexuality was their friends and family coming out as gay. People had that attitude that they didn't know anyone who was gay, so it didn't affect them. Over time, and as people came out, it changed people's attitudes. It is the same with HIV. Most people think that they don't know anyone with HIV but they came to the clinic with me, then they would probably get a surprise."

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