And the Band Played On (1993)
Long before The Normal Heart made it to television, And the Band Played On riveted TV audiences with its honest and raw account of the discovery of HIV, the infighting among scientists, and the struggles of people who were living with the disease. With a powerhouse cast, including Matthew Modine, Alan Alda, Richard Gere, Lily Tomlin, Anjelica Huston, and Swoosie Kurtz, the HBO movie is both irresistible and excruciating for its chronicle of the pain and injustice that defined the early years of AIDS.
Angels in America (2003)
Continuing HBO’s long-standing record of bringing the stories of HIV to the small screen, Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize–winning play Angels in America was beautifully adapted into this miniseries. This imaginatively crafted account of the AIDS crisis combined subtlety with Broadway grandeur. And with acting heavyweights like Meryl Streep and Al Pacino among the all-star cast, this is one timeless TV moment that is truly a must-see.
Charlie Hardwick, Emmerdale (2014)
One of Britain’s most-watched television programs, the soap opera Emmerdale told the story of a woman who was forced to expose her HIV-positive status and risk her relationships with her husband and family. After a fling with a married man in Portugal, Val Pollard (Charlie Hardwick) returns to the town of Emmerdale and discovers she is HIV-positive. After trying to keep her diagnosis from her family, Val is pressed to disclose it when an anonymous comment about HIV is left on her B&B’s website. The show offered an honest account of the struggle Val’s husband goes through to forgive her infidelity and accept her status, and showed how HIV stigma can affect more than just the person who is living with the virus.
The Normal Heart (2014)
Adapted from Larry Kramer’s seminal play, this HBO movie brought the early days of AIDS to life for a new generation. The Normal Heart addressed not only the struggles of gay men with the disease itself but their efforts to make their voices heard and show that their lives matter. Widely considered the most important depiction of the early AIDS crisis, the movie was filled with powerhouse performances from Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Jonathan Groff, Julia Roberts, and Finn Wittrock.
Pedro Zamora, The Real World: San Francisco (1994)
Pedro Zamora will be long remembered for making TV history by showing the reality of HIV. As the first openly HIV-positive person on reality TV before it was “reality TV,” Pedro gave Middle America a chance to see what it meant to live with the virus. He broke down barriers, shattered stereotypes, and became a hero of the modern LGBT movement. Zamora died in November 1994, just hours after the final episode of his Real World season aired.