‘It’s a Sin’ – The cultural importance of talking about the HIV/AIDS crisis

No doubt you’ve heard the well-deserved hype about the Channel 4 drama ‘It’s a Sin’ created by Russell T Davies. It’s a ground-breaking series, focusing on the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 80s starring a superb cast with excellent writing. Having binged the entire series in one day, I wanted to share with you the importance and accuracy of this drama.


It’s a Sin: A Summary

The show focuses on a group of gay men and their friend Jill living in a flatshare in London in the 80s. Its focal character is Ritchie, played by Olly Alexander, an aspiring actor who develops an extremely tight bond with Jill, Roscoe, Colin, Ash and Gregory/Gloria. The show itself fights all stigmas surrounding the HIV/AIDS crisis as well as the tough homophobia Ritchie receives after coming out, unintentionally after contracting AIDS himself, from his parents (played by Keeley Hawes and Shaun Dooley). Not only does it tackle the uncertainties that doctors faced regarding the outbreak, but also the disbelief many gay men had towards the virus. Through a ten-year timeline; Colin’s colleague Henry, Henry’s partner, Gregory/Gloria, Colin and Ritchie all die of AIDS.

DID YOU KNOW? Lydia West’s character Jill Baxter was based off the real life Jill Nalder, who in the 80s assisted in visiting AIDS patients in hospital and joined a helpline for those struggling. The real Jill portrays Jill Baxter’s mum!

What is HIV/AIDS?

There’s so much stigma about HIV and AIDS and it’s important to be able to differentiate the two. HIV is the virus, contracted from most bodily fluids. AIDS is the condition that results from HIV if left untreated for so long. There are so many myths surrounding both HIV and AIDS that ‘It’s a Sin’ tries to address, alongside educating us on as and when doctors find out in the show. These include;

  • ‘AIDS can get caught by just touching a patient’
  • ‘Only homosexual men can catch HIV’
  • ‘You will die if you have HIV’

After watching the show and doing little research, these myths are simply not true! In fact, in 1987 Princess Diana publicly shook hands with an AIDS patient to prove that it’s not transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. Everyone is at risk of catching HIV, many people are even be born with it (congenital HIV). Despite there being no cure for HIV, there are ongoing treatments used to contain the virus using post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). These three most common HIV/AIDS myths are so misinterpreted even in todays society, thus the importance of a series like ‘It’s a Sin’ now!

DID YOU KNOW? Freddie Mercury and Liberace both died of AIDS during the 80s crisis.

So, you’ve watched the show, now what?

As I mentioned before, many people are born with HIV unaware that they contain the virus. This is why practicing safe sex is important, as well as frequent STI tests (specifically blood tests!) in order to prevent further outbreaks. Thankfully, ‘It’s a Sin’ is breaking down the stigma of HIV tests and treatment every day.

Source: This Morning (ITV)

Watch ‘It’s a Sin’ over on All 4 here

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