It’s a Sin premiered in January 2021 on Britain’s Channel 4, becoming its most watched show ever. The show raises HIV awareness and does a perfect job in showing the world, pain, sacrifice and stigma that HIV+ people face in our society. When I was first diagnosed with HIV, I spent a lot of time telling people how I got It and whom I got it from; that’s what everyone wanted to know, even if they didn’t ask it outright. HIV awareness across the world will go through a huge amount of change after It’s a Sin, but not too many people have been paying attention.
We cannot still say out loud with absolute confidence that one is living with HIV and is on effective treatment. Watching It’s a Sin did not inspire a similar feeling of solidarity. I’d say it deliberately traffics in a sense of abjection about AIDS, as evident by online reactions such as: ‘I’m a wreck,’ ‘I’m in tears’. Watching the show in a vacuum would leave almost anyone feeling depressed, demoralised and full of fear about gay sex. These issues are so ingrained in its storytelling that they could not be solved by a simple ‘That was then, this is now’ epilogue.
One could argue that the show is historical and its pessimism is simply accurate to what it felt like being ‘back then’. I’m lucky to live in a time when my HIV infection is not fatal and I have access to a health service that makes antiretrovirals freely available. These advancements are a part of the reason I don’t fixate any longer on the story of my infection or blame the partner I contracted it from.
I’ve been given the privilege of time, health and psycho-social support from art and other sources to come to terms with the condition. I’m also happy to know activists and ordinary people alike who have HIV. They give me a sense of community that helps combat the deep negative feelings that can, and still, arise over my status.