Free bassist Andy Fraser remembers being frozen in shock for five minutes after being told he was HIV positive. His diagnosis in the early 1990s led to three years of hell – and the fear he would never make music again. The horror moment came after he'd lived through the premature collapse of his band, the failure of his marriage and his realisation he was gay.
Fraser discusses his wilderness years and his fight back to health (via Classic Rock
): "My marriage had fallen apart. I was all screwed up sexually. F--k fame, f--k career, f--k everything. I got a motorhome, put a studio in there, ran it off solar panels on the roof, put a bike on the back and really let go.
"It was great. There's nothing like parking outside a club and there's a hotel right there. Money wasn't an issue. It was the first time since the age of 15 I'd let go."
But after more than a year of living on the road, doctors told him he was seriously ill. "They tested me and it came back: hepatitis B – and HIV. You’re frozen. I was frozen for five minutes. And that night was a sleepless night from crying.
"But I'm proud of how quickly I said: 'Okay, you have less time than you thought. Prioritise. Cut out the crap.'"
Fraser reveals he was so close to death that specialists didn’t believe he could survive. "I was down to one T cell," he says. "The healthy person should be 400 up to 1100. If your viral load is 10,000 they put you on medication. Mine got up to 4.3 million. The doctors were climbing the walls."
He admits he didn't take the illness seriously until he suffered outbreaks of cancerous growths on his face – admitting with a laugh: "It shows how vain I am!"
Due to inaccurate prescriptions he spent three years unable to play bass. The solution came when he changed doctor. Today he has to take care with eating, sleeping and exercise – but he's never suffered a relapse of any kind. He recently appeared with Glenn Hughes at the Marshall Amps 50th anniversary show at Wembley. His most recent solo album "On Assignment" describes his attitude to his career, and he’s working closely with his record label’s first signing, a young singer-songwriter called Tobi. He’s also written a book "All Right Now".