HIV And AIDS In The Movies

 By: Tim Leach
For those who can remember back to the early 1980s and the start of the AIDS epidemic, there was something vaguely surreal about seeing the warnings on our television screens and the reports put out by the media. Was this all just hype, we were left wondering? Could this new disease really be that bad? Should we all be rushing off for a confidential HIV test? Since then, of course, the grim reality of the destructive forces of HIV and AIDS has hit home, with millions dying. Today, many more are living with the HIV virus thanks to vastly improved treatments. While for some, the media reports have undoubtedly hit the mark in terms of encouraging more responsible behavior to curtail the spread of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV); for others it has been the extremely poignant movies that have been produced which have caused them to think twice.


Of all the modern day movies to depict the suffering of AIDS victims, Philadelphia is probably one of the best known, although not the earliest. Made in 1993 and starring Tom Hanks as senior legal associate Andrew Beckett, the movie deals with the main character's struggle to deal, not only with the homophobic prejudices of his associates, but also his battle with AIDS. Inspired by the true-life story of Geoffrey Bowers, an attorney who sued the law firm for which he worked in 1987 for unfair dismissal on the grounds of AIDS discrimination, some now see the movie as being somewhat outdated. It has to be said that, as with many of the excellent movies which have been made on the subject, its portrayal of the disease should do much to encourage those who have potentially put themselves at risk to seek a confidential HIV test at the earliest opportunity.

An Early Frost

Although Philadelphia might be one of the best-remembered movies about HIV and AIDS, the very first one to be made was a TV movie which was first broadcast on NBC in November 1985. Starring Aidan Quinn as successful Chicago attorney Michael Pierson, An Early Frost handled the dilemma of the main character's family in coming to terms with his homosexuality and the fact that he had AIDS. Rather than as a result of a confidential HIV test, Pierson is diagnosed with the disease after being rushed to hospital with the early symptoms of AIDS.

A Mother's Prayer

Although truly groundbreaking in their portrayal of AIDS, An Early Frost and Philadelphia of course both concentrate on the disease as it affects male homosexuals. A Mother's Prayer, on the other hand, looks at AIDS from the perspective of a mother who is struggling to bring up her young son after the death of her husband. Having been diagnosed with the disease, she has to face the issue of what will happen to her son when she dies.

With time comes progress

Since the time when these early movies were made, much has happened in terms of diagnosing and treating HIV. Nowadays, many of those taking a confidential HIV test and receiving treatment can expect to be able to live a relatively normal life and to keep AIDS at bay for much longer than was previously possible. As with many illnesses, however, the key is in detecting HIV at the earliest possible stage, so if you think that you may have been at risk, arrange to have your confidential HIV test carried out as soon as possible.
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