‘Queer as Folk’ Writer on Why Show Had No Mention of HIV/AIDS

Credit: Channel 4

Arguably one of the most groundbreaking LBGTQ series of all time is Queer as Folk. It first premiered across the pond in England in 1999 before getting an American spinoff one year later. 

Russell T. Davies, a screenwriter for the original QAF, recently penned an essay for The Observer about why the series contained no mention of HIV and AIDS. The 57-year-old is doing a complete 180 surrounding the topic in his upcoming Channel 4 series called It’s A Sin which chronicles the lives and loves of four gay men in 1980’s London.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqd2Jq_w80c

“In 1994, I created a 15-year-old HIV+ teenager for Children’s Ward at Granada Television,” he wrote. “Then, after I’d invented a raft of gay characters for various soaps – a lesbian vicar, schoolboy lovers, a gay barman in 1920 – I came to invent Queer As Folk in 1999. Britain’s first gay drama. And the words HIV and Aids were said… not once.”

 “That was quite a press launch. The rage, the shouting! Two hundred journalists in full pomp,” he continued. “The straight press were as hostile as you’d expect, but the gay press were especially furious because we had no condoms, no warnings, no messages on screen. Well, yes, tough. Because by that stage, in 1999, I refused to let our lives be defined by disease. So I excluded it on purpose. The omission of Aids was a statement in itself, and it was the right thing to do.”

The 10-episode series featured Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam who was just 18 when the program premiered. He has since become a massive A-lister with major television and movie roles under his belt.  

QAF wasn’t the only LGBTQ series to exclude any mention of HIV/AIDS. Will & Grace, which premiered on NBC in the fall of 1998, only spoke about it once throughout its initial 8 seasons (it was rebooted in 2017). The topic was addressed when Grace (Debra Messing) and her boyfriend mentioned getting an AIDS test in a 2001 episode. 

Other shows, however, have not shied away from it. Looking, which ran on HBO for two seasons before it concluded with a movie, featured an HIV-positive character named Eddie played by Mean Girls alum Daniel Franzese

How to Get Away With Murder, Pose and Emmerdale have also been lauded for featuring characters from many backgrounds who have HIV.


Sources: The Observer

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