Heralded as one of the best shows ever on television by TV Guide, Thirtysomething depicted not just the lives of heterosexual baby boomers, but also the life of Peter Montefiore (Peter Frechette), a gay artist who contracted HIV from one of his sexual partners. The series entered new prime-time territory when it showed Peter naked and in bed with boyfriend Russell (David Marshall Grant), apparently after the two had sex on a first date. The episode provided a candid look into the lives of gay men without mainstream filters and lost some advertisers because of it.
The HBO series Oz delivered an often-crueler portrait of life with the virus — the life of an HIV-positive inmate. The show chronicled a group of men who were infected while in prison and were isolated in their own unit because of it. Oz didn’t hold back in depicting the harsh reality of what it was like to live with HIV behind bars.
The HIV-positive characters of Queer as Folk (2000-2005)
This groundbreaking program, the U.S. version of a British series, depicted a cross section of gay men living with HIV. There was Vic, played by Jack Wetherall, who was the uncle of a main character, Michael Novotny (Hal Sparks). Robert Gant played the ever-so-sexy and distinguished Ben, a college professor and Novotny’s boyfriend. And then there was Hunter, a former hustler who became Ben and Michael’s foster son, played by Harris Allan. Queer as Folk portrayed the reality of HIV in a way that few shows ever have. The topic was frequently addressed by each character but did not form the defining storyline for any of the men living with the virus.