HIV: Why it's No Longer a Sin

by Drew Lovell

With It’s A Sin, Russell T. Davies has done what he’s always done: he’s written a television show which is thought-provoking, compelling, and lingers in your mind a long time after the final episode has finished. But there’s something different about It’s A Sin, something deeper. It feels as though It’s A Sin has blended unforgettable characters and authentic 1980s nostalgia with a remarkable tenderness and a certain brutality we scarcely see on screen.

It’s had a positive domino effect when it comes to sexual health, too, in that the ordering of HIV home testing kits have rocketed.

According to the amazing Terrence Higgins Trust, four times as more kits were ordered this year than any year prior. This is no doubt due in part to the power of Ritchie, Roscoe--and of course, The Pink Palace!

Perhaps its biggest legacy is in reminding us how far we’ve come since the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, how far we’ve come in terms of treatments, and how far we’ve come in our attitudes towards people living with HIV and AIDS.

Changing the stigma around HIV and AIDS is something that we feel passionately about here at Yoxly. Afterall, it’s not a gay disease, it’s not a death sentence, and it doesn’t have stop you from living a perfectly normal life.

Without further ado, here are three major factors that have been instrumental in changing changing the way we view HIV and AIDS:

(Note: For anyone who has yet to see It’s A Sin, there may be spoiler alerts ahead!)

1. Advances in Medication

The first named person to die from AIDS/HIV in the UK was Terrance Higgins. Terrance passed away from an AIDS related illness on 4 July 1982. It took until 1987 to release the first treatment for HIV into the public arena.

  • Azidothymidine (also known as AZT and Zidovudine) was used to delay the development of AIDS in patients suffering from HIV.

  • Things got a lot better in 1997 with the introduction of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy, or HAART. This was a rather potent cocktail of medication which, again, slowed the progression of HIV. HAART saw patients endure a heavy dose of prescription drugs. The downside was an assortment of side-effects including nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, mood changes and fatigue, to name a few, but it also saw a 47% cut in death rates.

  • Better still was the introduction of PrEP in 2012. Unlike the meds previously mentioned, PrEP doesn’t slow the progression of HIV, but it’s used as a method of precaution. Stats show that if you take PrEP everyday, you can lower the risk of HIV infection by 99%.

Fast forward to today and there are more than thirty different medications available for the treatment of HIV. In fact, since 2020 a second patient has been completely cured of HIV.

There’s no overnight antidote; there’s no wonder-drug. But HIV has certainly come a long way since its death sentence stigma of the 1980s as portrayed in It’s A Sin

2. Advances in Testing Technology

As It’s A Sin has reminded us, such was the fear around HIV in the 1980s and early 1990s, that a lot of people were simply scared to go for a test. Some of you may remember the (rather terrifying) public information campaign from 1986 that is touched upon in the series. Instead of giving us information on the causes of AIDS, the misconceptions and any other helpful information, it simply set about to scare the living daylights out of the nation.

The first test for HIV was offered in 1985. It was a blood test that checked for HIV antibodies, which meant the person had to have been infected for up to 3-12 weeks beforehand. Also, the patient had to wait up to two weeks for the outcome, and it was also pretty infamous for displaying false results. Not ideal.

This also came with the huge stigma, the shame and the embarrassment of having to go into a clinic and test for HIV in person. Again, another social aspect of HIV in the 1980s that is so well documented in It’s A Sin.

Thank goodness today’s HIV testing kits can be done easily from the comfort of your own home. Yoxly’s home testing kits test for a range of STIs including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and HIV. Additionally, results are sent to your inbox within a matter of days.

3. HIV in the Arts

Film and television will always reflect real-life events by covering current affairs. You can see this today from the array of programmes that have incorporated the COVID-19 pandemic into their storylines. (Casualty, Staged, even Southpark to name a few).

It’s a powerful way to help us all feel connected through tough times, and to also help breakdown ignorant attitudes. HIV and AIDS have been at the centre of many important films and influential television shows, each doing their bit to raise awareness and to alter negative preconceptions. Here are just a few:

  • Philadelphia (1993)

The 1993 film starred Tom Hanks as an attorney who is wrongly dismissed when his bosses discover he is suffering from AIDS.

It’s known as one of the first major Hollywood films to acknowledge HIV/AIDS and the homophobia that surrounds it. Perhaps the most outstanding aspect of the film is that it is based on the real-life discrimination case of Geoffrey Bowers.

  • Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

2013’s Dallas Buyers Club is a awe-inspiring and somewhat alarming portal of what it was like to be living with AIDS in early 1980s America. It follows Matthew McConaughey and his one-man struggle to find pharmaceutical drugs to help treat the progressions of his disease. Once again, a story based on real-life events.

  • It’s A Sin (2021)

How could we not mention It’s A Sin? 2021’s 5-part mini-series gives us an insight into the life of Ritchie, an 18 year old who moves from the Isle of Wight to London in the early 1980s to begin a career in acting. There’s not much about It’s A Sin that hasn’t already been said. It’s a heartbreaking and devastating glimpse into what it was like to be young and gay in a time when a new disease called AIDS was shredding through the gay community. It’s poignant, scary, and essential viewing.

As previously mentioned, the It’s A Sin effect has seen a huge surge in people ordering home-testing kits. What better legacy is there than to know you have influenced a generation to keep on top of their sexual health?

You can order one of Yoxly’s home-testing kits right now. It’s an easy, no-fuss solution and you receive your results within days. Iif you are unable to afford one in your current situation. Please get in touch today and we’ll help find a solution so you can still get tested.

Want to know more? Contact us today.

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Drew Lovell has created content for various tech and entertainment companies, including Disney Online. His latest role was for a leading learning tech company, which saw him as the head of YouTube, chief blogger and social media expert. Drew has also written comedy for BBC Radio Four, released x2 podcast series, and x3 novels.

 

 

Yoxly's Awesome Contributors (YACs) are a diverse group of individuals who are passionate about public health, and committed to furthering our mission. Yoxly provides a platform where a variety of sexual health topics (some more awkward than others!) can be explored, in an informative and non-judgmental way. If you'd like to become one of Yoxly's Awesome Contributors, contact us!

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