Queer as Folk creator Russell T Davies’ new drama series It’s A Sin sheds light on the early days of the looming AIDS crisis in the 1980s.
The five-part drama series follows the lives of young gay men Ritchie, Roscoe, and Colin who grow up in London over the course of the devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Singer and actor Olly Alexander plays Ritchie, an aspiring actor who doesn’t believe AIDS is real in a chilling teaser clip from the series.
Speaking to camera, Ritchie expresses his doubts about the various rumours emerging of the so-called “gay cancer”.
“It’s a racket, it’s a money-making schema for drugs companies,” Ritchie declares.
“Do you seriously think there’s an illness that only kills gay men? That can calculate that you’re gay and kill you, but no one else?
“They want to scare us and stop us having sex and make us really boring – basically because they can’t get laid.”
But with the virus on the rise, the young friends will be tested in ways they never imagined.
The series, streaming in Australia on Stan this month, stars Alexander, Neil Patrick Harris and Stephen Fry.
‘There’s a danger the story will be forgotten’
Creator Russell T Davies drew on his own experiences for the series. Davies was 18 years old in 1981.
“I lived through those times. It’s taken me decades to build up to this,” he said.
“And as time marches on, there’s a danger the story will be forgotten.
“So it’s an honour to write this for the ones we lost, and the ones who survived.”
He recalled the rumours and misinformation that spread about the AIDS pandemic during the early 1980s.
“The hysteria quickly caught fire. Because fake news, false facts and conspiracy theories weren’t invented in 2020,” he told the Guardian.
“They ran riot with AIDS in the 1980s.
“If you think the internet is to blame for misinformation, I can guarantee the problem existed long before I even had an electric typewriter.
“It’s hard to look back and reconstruct how information was spread in those early days, ’81, ’82, before the tabloids got hold of the story.
“Rumours. Mutterings. Whispers from America. Chat in the dark corners of pubs. A few brave activists photocopying what little information they had.”
It’s A Sin streaming in Australia on January 23
Russell T Davies reflected the moment he took the disease seriously after buying a copy of queer magazine Him at university.
“I didn’t actually look at it until I was walking home. And I stopped. Right there. On Juxon Street. Blazing sunshine. I stared at the headline. ‘AIDS Gay Death-Plot Panic.’
“The words emblazoned across a brilliant and erotic drawing of naked men boiling to death in a test tube, drawn by the artist Oliver Frey.”
Davies said from then on he believed HIV and AIDS was real and still wonders if reading it saved his life.
It’s A Sin will arrive in Australia to stream on Stan on January 23.