CNN series ‘The Eighties’ takes on the AIDS epidemic

Posted on 01 Jun 2016 at 2:58pm
Larry Kramer

LGBT and AIDS activist Larry Kramer was one of the loudest voices in the fight against AIDS and its stigma in the 1980s.

How old were you when the AIDS epidemic first hit?

How old were you when the New York Times printed that first story about gay men dying of some mysterious cancer? When they called it GRID — Gay-Related Immune Deficiency? When they realized it wasn’t just gay men getting sick and started calling it AIDS — Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome? When they finally discovered the human immunodeficiency virus — HIV — that causes AIDS?

How old were you when the men of our community were dying every day?

Truth is, a lot of people reading this weren’t even born yet back then. A lot more were just wee tots with no idea what was happening. For some, the 1980s are ancient history, not personal history, with no relevance to their day-to-day lives.

That lack of historical perspective may be why HIV infection rates are so high among young people.

Now CNN offers a chance to maybe fill in some of the historical gaps for the younger generation with a new episode of the cable channel’s original series The Eighties, “The Fight Against AIDS,” airing tomorrow (Thursday, June 2, 8 p.m. CST). The program “focuses on the pandemic that created a movement and defined a decade.”

According to a press release, this “mysterious and lethal illness developed into a pandemic with enormous political and cultural consequences. What started as a medical detective story grew into a societal nightmare as first dozens and eventually thousands of people all over the world contracted the lethal virus that came to be known as AIDS. It’s a story of ignorance and heartbreak, but also one of compassion, courage and dedication.”

Award-winning producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, in association with HBO producer Mark Herzog, present the series, The Eighties, which “explores the individuals and events that shaped a decade of exceptionalism and excess.” The program combines rarely-seen archival footage and interviews with journalists, historians, musicians and television artists to tell the story of the decade. Future episides will focus on the age of Reagan, the end of the Cold War, Wall Street corruption, the tech boom and the expansion of television and the evolving music scene.

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