“When you have access to medical care, HIV’s no longer a death sentence. People live long lives. They fall in love. They pursue their dreams.”
The medical advancements surrounding HIV treatment and prevention have been extraordinary. With access to proper health care, those living with HIV are incapable of transmitting the virus, and PrEP, a once-a-day pill, reduces one’s risk of getting HIV through sex by 99 percent.
Pop culture hasn’t yet caught up to reflect this new reality and the depictions of those living with HIV remain stuck in the ’80 and ’90s, with recent examples like It’s A Sin and Pose. These great strides we’ve made are nearly invisible and subsequently, the stigma and misconceptions around HIV have remained high. In a study conducted last year, GLAAD found that respondents experienced a sizable level of discomfort when interacting with people who are living with HIV. Fifty-three percent of non-LGBTQ+ people surveyed said they’d be uncomfortable interacting with a medical professional who had HIV and 44 percent said they’d be uncomfortable getting a haircut from a person living with HIV.
“I grew up being in love with narratives and stories about queer people living with HIV from Angels in America to Rent. These are movies that I saw myself in,” says Jared Frieder, the writer and director of Three Months. “But very few people had continued that conversation into the modern era where when you have access to medical care, HIV’s no longer a death sentence. People live long lives. They fall in love. They pursue their dreams.”
This is the world Frieder’s created in Three Months: It’s a modern HIV narrative, one we’re desperately in need of.
Just as he’s graduating high school in 2011, Caleb (played by Troye Sivan) learns that he’s been potentially exposed to HIV and must now wait three months for the test results to come back. Along the way, avoiding overly didactic tropes, he learns about how much has changed for those living with HIV since Pedro Zamora was on TV in The Real World: San Francisco. Caleb watches Zamora throughout the film, one of the first out gay men living with HIV that the public got to see and know, and the message is clear: This is not the same virus it once was. The tools now exist that allow you to live a long and healthy life with HIV.
Jared Frieder joins the LGBTQ&A podcast this week to talk about his film, Three Months (premiering February 23rd on Paramount+), the nine years it took to get it made, and why it’s vital that we let people know that “when you have access to medical care, HIV is no longer a death sentence.” Click here to listen.
LGBTQ&A is a weekly LGBTQ+ interview podcast hosted by Jeffrey Masters. Past guests include Pete Buttigieg, Laverne Cox, Roxane Gay, and Miss Major Griffin Gracy.
New episodes come out every Tuesday.