OPINION: 'It's A Sin' helps us to commemorate those we lost to HIV/AIDS

Monday, 15 February 2021 09:29 GMT

A still from HIV/AIDS drama 'It's A Sin'. Handout courtesy of Channel 4

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

It is not easy to forget the HIV/AIDS crisis - nor should it be

Ben Lord and Steve Keeble are co-directors and producers of ‘AFTER 82’, a documentary about the early years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the UK

We were both cautious to learn that Russell T Davies was working on a drama about HIV/AIDS.

We knew, if done successfully, the five- part drama would be an emotional rollercoaster, especially as it would hit close to home. Anything personal that takes you back to a time you would rather forget is going to be difficult to watch.

However, not all of us want to forget.

Homophobia was rife in those days, and the “gay plague” HIV/AIDS only increased it. Acknowledgement of that time is important, and when it’s given, it allows people a chance to heal. We don’t want history to repeat itself, so it’s important to see dramas like “It’s a Sin”.

With Russell at the helm of this series, with a captivating script and such superb acting, you have a recipe for a classic that is close to accurate and we are thankful for that.

It’s hard to a fault with this drama. One suggestion was made that some of the gay community appeared to act sexually irresponsible, but this was a time when there were so many stories going around about the virus, no one really knew what was going on.

Many in the community “did their bit” working on LGBT Switchboard, donating blood, and raising much needed funds. The launch of the Terrence Higgins Trust and the London Lighthouse provided a dignified support for so many. Although not featured in the drama, they were there, and what an inspiration they were, and still are.

The first two episodes showed the excitement that was felt by the many young men who had come from all parts of the country to London. The city that was viewed as safe – a haven for many and a chance to be free.

This freedom is crucially demonstrated in the series with such poignancy, especially in the portrayal of friendships and the role it plays in the creation of the surrogate family. This is articulated beautifully through the actors, so that it makes you feel personally that you are missing out on such profound and life-affirming friendships.

With director Peter Hoar’s use of colour and vibrancy, he depicts a world that felt exciting, liberating.

However, the reality, was very different. The Falklands war, mass unemployment, the miner’s strike, the notorious Section 28 that outlawed local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality. While “It’s a Sin” is a drama based on actual events, it does omit certain parts of the cold reality of the pandemic, which is what we set out to cover in AFTER 82.

But thanks to Russell and the cast and crew, we now have another way of commemorating those we lost, providing an education for the many, both young and old, regardless of sexual preference who were not aware of the impact felt by so many from this time.

“It’s a Sin” is a moving monument allowing many people to remember, laugh, grieve and acknowledge what was done. But it is important to also commemorate the real stories of those left behind.

It’s not easy to forget, is it? And nor should it be.


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