The release of Channel 4’s series It’s a Sin broke records not just within the entertainment industry but also within the impact of HIV testing in the UK. The numbers recorded surpassed the 2019 statistics of 8,048 overall tests issued in one day. The first episode broadcasted a few days before HIV Testing Week, creating national awareness surrounding the need for HIV and AIDS awareness.
The series documented the lives of a group of gay friends living through the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. The show focused primarily on the lives of those affected within the UK, and how they coped with an HIV-positive diagnosis. The themes, characters, and the overall raw authenticity that the show delivered, had the audience hooked to the lives of the group who are trying to navigate their way through the demonization of the gay community in 1980’s Britain. The reliability factor undoubtedly played a role in how the show translated amongst the millennial, and Gen-Z demographic that the show was created to target. This was mostly presented through the audience being able to relate to the characters in terms of their personality and characteristic attributes. This caused a ripple effect on the audience, both old and young who were tuning in every week to accompany the characters through their navigation amongst the queer community and their battle with the AIDS and HIV epidemic. The society treated them as the cause of the problem, rather than what they were – victims. They were victims of a demonization narrative presented through heterosexual media bias. It’s A Sin has undoubtedly been revolutionary and well-needed. It is a success with British viewers causing a huge surge in demand for HIV tests just a week after the first episode aired on Channel 4. The surge of testing since the show was broadcasted. The demand was so high that it forced Public Heath England to order an extra 10,000 tests. This surge was solely during the testing week. This is a huge success for the queer community who are trying to vocalize the need for people to getting tested for HIV and AIDS. It also provides the queer community an opportunity to correct the misinformation surrounding the wide-spread belief that only gay people can contract the disease. This falsified narrative has been medically proven to be incorrect.
The demonization narrative plagued mainstream media outlets in the 1980s. Titles such as “gay plague” penalized a whole generation of queer men as the problems rather than victims. Gay men’s bodies became so horrifically mediatized through the course of the AIDS and HIV epidemic in the 1980’s that they were perceived as nothing more than the virus itself. This had stripped a whole community of their humanization and labeled them with the stigmatized title of ‘unclean’. The AIDS and HIV epidemic was essentially a war against the queer community orchestrated by the media and religious organizations to create a moral panic within communities that were unaware of AIDS and HIV.
Shows such as It’s a Sin and FX’s Pose have positive impacts in increasing numbers of people getting tested for HIV. It also plays a large role in allowing the queer community to authentically share their reality and truth on the false narratives pinned against them through the media. The misrepresentation that they’ve suffered at the hands of the media has created a moral rhetoric that penalized gay men as deviant, as well as the fundamental cause of the epidemic. It’s A Sin and other shows alike are imperative to give the queer community a chance to gain their humanity that was stripped from them through decades of falsified narratives. These narratives painted them as the problem rather than victims of demonization and misrepresentation. Authenticity in shows such as It’s A Sin is another key component to deliver accuracy amongst the characters, as well as the themes presented. Having queer actors playing queer roles allow queer audience members to relate to them and take crucial educational elements from the show.
Younger queer viewers through shows such as It’s A Sin are provided the essential LGBTQIA+ sex education that they are deprived of within their school curriculum. These shows teach the younger generation of the queer community that getting a HIV test is not an embarrassment but is essential. It also encourages them to be able to spread the truth that anyone can be susceptible to HIV and it does not affect only members of the queer or gay community
These shows in the mainstream media increase education and awareness surrounding AIDS and the HIV epidemic. It demonstrates that there are accessible sources of LGBTQIA+ problems that are effective in delivering a crucial queer perspective on the topics that they were once penalized for. It delivers an element of authenticity to issues occurred at the hands of mainstream media towards the community. The education and awareness have been effective since the show’s release have increased the number of people getting tested for HIV. This demonstrates that this is vital to reach the goal of removing the stigmatization of getting tested for HIV also allowing the queer community to speak their truths.