7 Groundbreaking HIV Storylines In Honor Of World AIDS Day 2017

7 Groundbreaking HIV Storylines In Honor Of World AIDS Day 2017

They not only changed perceptions, but changed identities.

World AIDS Day is every year on Dec. 1 and can be overlooked by many people as we celebrate the official start of the holiday season.

However, given that HIV/AIDS affected approximately 36.7 million people worldwide at the end of 2016 and is still considered to be a significant health issue today, it deserves attention.

As 2017 comes to an end, let’s reflect on a few of the television programs that feature powerful storylines for characters living with HIV. More so, how it affected not only these individuals, but also their loved ones.

1. “An Early Frost” (1985)

The made-for-television film was the first to address the topic of gay men affected by the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. Penned by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, the screenwriters made one of the earliest strides to break the stigma surrounding the ostracized community. Despite the revolutionary storyline, Lipman recalled in 2015 to The Huffington Post that NBC did not give them an easy time. “You couldn’t stack the deck by having the gay characters be ‘too gay.’ You couldn’t have all the straight people be the villains and the gay people be the heroes.”

2. “Designing Women” (1987)

The episode “Killing All the Right People” shows the character Kendall Dobbs (Tony Goldwyn) asking the main women on the show to design his funeral. Dobbs is then revealed to be gay and dying of AIDS. One of the most iconic moments in the episode was the following exchange:

Imogene: “As far as I’m concerned, this disease has one thing going for it: It’s killing all the right people.”
Julia Sugarbaker: “Imogene, get serious, who do you think you’re talking to? I’ve known you for 27 years and all I can say is if God was giving out sexually transmitted diseases to people as punishment for sin, then you would be at the free clinic all the time!”

3. “thirtysomething” (1991)

TV Guide considers the show to be one of the “best shows ever on television.” When Peter Montefiore (Peter Frechette) contracted HIV from one of his sexual partners, the show broke one barrier. Then, when Montefiore was shown naked in bed with his boyfriend Russell (David Marshall Grant), even more filters and illusions of the lives of openly gay men were dropped.

4. “General Hospital” (1993-95)

Stone Cates (Michael Sutton) was a game-changing character on the hit ABC soap opera. Cates died of an AIDS-related illness at 19-years-old in 1995, and Sutton would later be nominated for a 1996 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. His character’s legacy continued on the show; his close friend Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard) donated his late wife’s inheritance to General Hospital to open the Stone Cates Memorial AIDS Wing, and Cates’ girlfriend Robin Scorpio (Kimberly McCullough) would discuss her eventual diagnosis as HIV-positive and relationship with Cates to those she later met.

5. “Queer As Folk” (2000-05)

The Showtime drama — also written by Cowen and Lipman — further humanizes gay men who live their daily lives with the knowledge that they are HIV-positive. Throughout the five-year run, the program shows three generations of men affected by the disease, including Vic Grassi (Jack Wetherall), who later dies of AIDS-related complications; Ben Bruckner (Robert Gant), who contracts HIV from a former partner; and Hunter Novotny-Bruckner (Harris Allan), who discovers he is positive from his time as a street hustler. The show also discusses the social, political and emotional dynamics of serodiscordant couples, where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is negative, through Bruckner’s relationship, and later marriage, with Michael Novotny.

6. “The Normal Heart” (2014)

A more recent film, The Normal Heart goes back in time to the 1980s to depict the rise of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York City. The film includes many well-known actors, including Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Julia Roberts. In the film, Ruffalo’s character, Ned Weeks becomes the founder of a “prominent HIV advocacy group.”

7. “How to Get Away with Murder” (2015-17)

On the popular legal drama series, Oliver Hampton (Conrad Ricamora) and Connor Walsh (Jack Falahee) are in an on-again-off-again relationship. At the end of the first season, at Hampton’s insistence, both characters get tested for HIV, which results in Hampton learning that he is positive. The scene where Hampton suggests that they get tested, like others before it, breaks the stigma of being HIV-positive, but also stresses how prevalent it remains among men in the gay community and why it is important to be safe and get tested.

Cover Image Credit: Screener TV

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.


To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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Being Skinny Isn’t As Great As You Think

A reflection on the struggles that come with a person's body image.


Body image. It is one of the most powerful and harmful things on a person's self-esteem. Society and media have placed so many images of what we "should" look like. How we need to be eating, exercising, dressing, EVERYTHING. According to others, we always need to change ourselves or second guess how we see our bodies.

For as long as I can remember everyone has called me "tiny". Sure, being small and being able to fit into a lot of clothes is fun, but being tiny or thin isn't always a good thing. I am your typical college kid eating whatever I want whenever I want.

The only difference between myself and other students is that I almost never gain weight. Some girls or guys may read that part and think that I have a gift or blessing. That I can do whatever I want and still stay small and "pretty".

Have you ever finished a meal then looked at yourself and felt like something wasn't right? Some people in today's world and in history will spend time looking at themselves and seeing multiple things that are wrong with their body.

Some handled that by exercising and losing weight or gaining muscle, others have gone as far as throwing up their food or taking pills that force their bodies not to gain ANY weight. Hearing about that from adults or doctors seems crazy but people do it all the time. Possibly the people around you and you would never know.

I went to middle school with a girl that always finished her lunch walking to the trash and then taking herself to the bathroom. She wouldn't come back to our table until the lunch bell rang. Most people didn't give a second thought to this situation, me however, I followed her one day. What I saw next was something I wasn't prepared for as a 7th grader.

Two sinks, a mirror, and three stalls. One was occupied and the rest were empty. I walked into crying and nothing else. The girl had already taken care of her food and was trying to gather herself after what she just did.

People told her that she was gaining weight, that she was "chunky" or fat. She wasn't the only girl around that dealt with horrible comments like that. It's also not just girls dealing with issues like this.

Boys and men are constantly judged and only "ideal" if they are muscular. Young boys are called pigs or disgusting only because of their weight and looking bigger than the "average" person. Men are downgraded to a lesser meaning when they are thin and "stick like".

Even as we grow up kids and sometimes adults say things without realizing the effect. Being called tiny or skinny all of the time can make someone just feel small. Getting comments to eat a hamburger and fries can make someone feel insulted.

Having comments made about your skin or hair and people making assumptions about you can make someone feel misunderstood or judged. Being told that you need to eat more or go tanning because your body doesn't "look right" can torture a person.

There are so many things that play into a person's self-esteem. Average size, too small or too big is simply just words coming out of someone's mouth that don't understand the true beauties in life.

Do you ever look at a big oak tree and say, "You're too fat, you should really lose some weight."

Do you ever see a flower that blooms smaller than a quarter and tells it, "You are tiny! Why don't you go eat a burrito or something?"

No. You probably don't. Just replace the oak tree with mom and see how that feels coming out of your mouth. Replace flower with a teenage girl and see if you can actually say all of those things. Imagine if you were a parent and it was your little girl or boy that you were talking to and you said those words. Would you be happy with yourself? Would you feel guilty? Would you push them to make their body unhealthy just to fit society's standards?

I hope that you wouldn't

There are so many of us out there being told what to do with ourselves in order to be happy with our bodies. How can someone else determine our happiness for us? I have personally gotten to the point of breaking.

I see friends on a daily basis that want to change their body because it's "ugly". Many of those thoughts are because of things society has put in our minds, and not what truly matters.

As a society, we need to push towards total acceptance. Now, I am not meaning the sexuality or ethnicity type of acceptance because those are important on a different level. Respecting each other and our bodies are something that needs to be understood and enforced as much as sexuality acceptance is pushed.

I want to live in a world and raise children in a world that doesn't make people feel horrible about their bodies. It is THEIR body, not ours. The only body we should be worrying about is our own. I want my future daughter to grow and love playing dress up without wondering if her body looks right in what she's wearing. I want my future son to go to gym class and be able to do only one pull up with all of the other boys cheering him on to do better.

Is that too much to ask?


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