It’s A Sin's Russell T Davies and Omari Douglas as well as Pose choreographer and True Colors United's director of programs, Twiggy Pucci Garçon, recently discussed the impact of shows like the popular HBO Max miniseries on the battle against HIV in a lively panel discussion in conjunction with HBO Max and GLAAD. The other esteemed panelists who shared their own experiences, personal and professional, with HIV were Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, and activists Bruce Richman and DeShawn Usher. The discussion was moderated by The Advocate's editor in chief, Tracy E. Gilchrist.
Davies, the writer and creator of HBO Max’s hit miniseries about a group of young Londoners struggling with HIV in the 1980s, noted the value in projects like It’s a Sin (and Pose, which he said he loves) in remembering queer history and paying homage to those who lived and did the work of the time.
“History tends to be written by the activists, thank goodness, because they were there, they did the hard work, that’s marvelous. As a result, it can make history look more active than it was,” Davies cautioned. The series features a group of friends who are focused on celebrating queer life until they are spurred into activism.
Douglas, who plays Roscoe on the show, said he gained an awareness of HIV and AIDS through popular culture.
“I always knew about Rock Hudson and I always knew about Freddie Mercury, so I think there was always a sense of kinda being something that was a little bit distant from me,” he said. He went on to note that extensively researching the project brought the reality of the era home to him.
Lawyer-turned-activist and Prevention Access Campaign Executive Director Bruce Richman, who is the brain behind the U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) campaign, recalled the feeling of worthlessness and despair he felt when first learning he was living with HIV nearly 20 years ago.
“I knew I would live, because fortunately we had treatments back then, but I didn’t want to live because I felt toxic, I felt infectious, I felt like a vector of disease," he said.
He went on to discuss the strides made in treating HIV and AIDS and to praise shows like It's a Sin and Pose for the power of their stories to help eradicate stigma.
You can watch the rest of the panel discussion below.