We’ve Learned a lot about HIV/AIDs from Watching Popular Films and Television

Film and television have helped normalize HIV/AIDs discussions. Films such as Philadelphia and Dallas Buyers Club opened our eyes to the stigma patients faced and the difficulties they had obtaining treatment. Television shows such as the miniseries Angels in AmericaThe Real World, and Queer as Folk helped normalize the virus further.

Although the real heroes are everyday warriors (patients, doctors, and scientists) without pop culture, people would still have an ugly and under-informed understanding of HIV/AIDs. These are some of the best films and television series to tackle the subject.

How to Get Away with Murder – Season 2 

If you’re a fan of How to Get Away with Murder, you probably remember when computer nerd Oliver was diagnosed as HIV positive. His lover Connor was not HIV positive, so he began a daily regimen of the anti-HIV medication, PrEP. It helped the couple stay together, and was discussed on many episodes throughout the season.

PrEP is a real medication. A PrEP prescription helps keep HIV negative people from becoming infected. Anyone can take the drug, but it’s typically administered to those who are most at-risk of contracting the virus; meaning, those who are engaged in romantic relationships with people who have been diagnosed HIV positive. It’s a great safety precaution for anyone who isn’t in a serious relationship, and engages in casual or high-risk sexual behavior.

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club tells the true story of Ron Woodroof, a Texan who was given 30 days to live after he was diagnosed as HIV-positive. Woodroof wasn’t ready to give up, but there really wasn’t many treatment options back then.

It was difficult to obtain alternative treatments, and many medicines were slow to be approved by the FDA. Woodroof and others skirted the law to procure treatments for themselves and others. They created the “buyer’s club,” and it helped save countless lives in 1985 and beyond.

Angels in America – HBO Miniseries 

The miniseries Angels in America helped identify and shatter some stereotypes. It featured both a gay couple and a straight couple who grabble with the virus. One partner in each relationship is diagnosed. Unfortunately, it’s not all sentimental, love-conquers-all, and compassionate reactions. Self-interest overtakes love, and causes the relationships to struggle.

The miniseries is based on the seven-hour two-part play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. Tony Kushner is the writer/director of the show, and enotes.com states that it’s a “metaphor for an investigation of life in the 1980’s.”


Philadelphia is considered the first mainstream film to acknowledge homophobia, homosexuality, and HIV/AIDs. The film tells the story of Andrew Beckett, who was a senior associate at a hugely successful law firm. Because of the prejudice of the day, he was forced to keep his homosexuality a secret, but was let go after it was discovered he was living with AIDs. While battling the disease, Beckett sues his company for wrongful termination. If you haven’t seen this award-winning film, you should watch it. Tom Hanks won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for best actor, and the film won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film.

Because of trendsetting movies and television, it’s not uncommon to see LGBTQ people represented on screen. It’s not uncommon to see straight people suffering from AIDs because it does happen, a lot. It’s not uncommon to see these issues tackled in a way that’s meaningful and true to life, and ultimately that’s a good thing because it helps keep people abreast of HIV/AIDs information they may not otherwise have. Art truly imitates life in this case.

About The Author

Aleksandar Tomovic
Editor in Chief

French photographer (of Serbian Origins) lives and works in Los Angeles. Known for his celebrity fashion editorials and recognized around the world for his european esthetics and american efficiency.

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