Follow TV Tropes

Following

Tragic AIDS Story

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/tragic_aids_stor1y_7.png

Nurse: Do you engage in unprotected sex?
Anwar: Every film Iíve seen with a gay person ends with them having sex and dying of AIDS. I donít wanna die. So, yeah, I always use a condom.

A story about someone being diagnosed with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which can develop into Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), formerly known as GRID (Gay-related Immune Deficiency), and not surviving. In most of the 1980s and '90s, the virus was pretty much a death sentence until antiretroviral medications in the early 2000s became more effective and accessible in keeping the virus under control. Stories like this were also a way to get the message out about the seriousness of the disease at a time when the government and even the gay community were in denial.

Most storylines featuring AIDS show a long, painful, death. The drama comes from the way that family and friends react to the character's diagnosis: is there an internal battle and then resolve to stay and help in hospice, or do they get sick at the idea of either watching their loved one die or watching how they die,note  and run away? Expect a lot of angst. A lot of characters who end up with this line of treatment are gay and usually men, but that's not always the case. Still, it was a common way to Bury Your Gays.

This can be, from even the earliest outbreaks in The '80s, a case of Reality Is Unrealistic — trial medications like AZT helped some people, whereas others seemed to have bodies that miraculously cured themselves. As detailed in the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue of Pride (2014), the third man ever to be diagnosed as HIV-positive is still alive today.

This trope is less common in work set after the 1990s, as advances in medicine mean most HIV-positive people in the developed world are able to keep the virus in check. It doesn't become AIDS until the immune cells fall below a certain level, and most people with the virus today are able to live their lives without ever reaching that point. In fact, when you do see characters with HIV in modern-day works unless it's Historical Fiction and/or set in a developing country, their plotlines usually have more to do with living with the virus rather than dying from it. Still, AIDS was a defining specter for an entire community for almost twenty years, and to this day it still affects millions around the world.

Contrast with the unsympathetic Karmic STD, which involves people contracting STDs for malicious behavior (or at least what the writer assumes to be malicious). Also contrast STD Immunity, where a story ignores the possibility of any venereal disease.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Advertising 
  • One of the most shocking and innovative campaigns of The '90s was by Benetton, who used a colorized picture of a man dying of AIDS on his deathbed, with his family. The story behind the picture is that of David Kirby, a famous gay activist in The '80s who was diagnosed with AIDS at its height at the end of the decade, dying in 1990. The picture was taken moments before David died, though it wasn't until 1992 that the photo became viral, for the Benetton campaign.

     Anime & Manga 
  • In Sword Art Online, the "Mother's Rosario" arc is about Yuuki Konno, a girl who was born with AIDS due to an infected blood transfusion given to her mother before she was born. Her whole family contracted HIV and passed away, leaving her as the only one left alive (which included losing her twin sister). She goes on to form a guild called The Sleeping Knights with several other kids who are also terminally ill, where they go on to play lots of VRMMOs together with their numbers dwindling as they succumb to their illnesses. When Yuuki debuts in the story, she and her friends decide to join the most fantastical game they can find (ALFheim Online) and permanently leave their mark. While there, Yuuki gained fame as the World's Best Warrior and recruited Asuna to help them defeat a Boss for a high score. Upon succeeding, Asuna finally manages to discover the truth behind Yuuki and finds her in the clean room of a hospital using a medicuboid VR device 24/7. No longer able to keep it a secret, Yuuki confesses her last wish is to attend a normal school, which Asuna arranges via a portable probe that allows her to see the real world without having to leave the hospital. From then on Asuna dedicates herself to making sure Yuuki can Go Out with a Smile. Eventually, Asuna is informed that Yuuki's condition has deteriorated and logs into ALO one last time. Yuuki passes on her Original-Sword-Skill as a parting gift before collapsing into Asuna's arms as thousands of players come to visit her and honor her last moments.

     Comic Books 
  • Alpha Flight:
    • Writer Bill Mantlo had wanted to have Northstar die of AIDS in a Very Special Issue, but the idea was vetoed by editor Andy Mangels. Mangels explained his decision by saying he thought killing off Marvel's only gay superhero at the time by giving him AIDS was not in good taste.
    • John Byrne planned to bring Northstar out and have him die of AIDS in Issue 50 of the first series and had laid the groundwork, dropping hints as to Northstar's homosexuality and giving him a mysterious disease. At the last minute, this was changed, with Loki telling Northstar that he was half-Asgardian Elf and his illness was an allergy to Earth. Northstar moved to Asgard briefly, and when he returned, he was shown bored out of his mind and kicking himself for believing such a ridiculous story told by the god of lies.
    • Northstar's actual coming out issue still addressed AIDS. Jean-Paul adopts a baby girl with the virus and names her Joanne, and she becomes a media darling across Canada. Seeing this drives retired superhero Major Mapleleaf insane with grief, as his own son had died of AIDS, but because he was gay, nobody cared and Mapleleaf had to watch him die. He shows up to "mercy kill" Joanne, which naturally leads to an epic fight across Toronto with Northstar. Northstar comes out as gay as he defeats Mapleleaf, but he realizes the man is utterly broken and consoles him in the end. The issue ends with Joanne dying of AIDS while Northstar comes out to the general public in a press conference.
  • In Circles, the only character who dies is Paulie, and he dies from HIV. His husband Douglas was devastated but soon he was comforted by everyone else. While everyone else was alive and had an Earn Your Happy Ending, at least Doug had a Bittersweet Ending.
  • DC Pride 2022: In the autobiographical "Finding Batman", Kevin Conroy talks about how many gay men in the entertainment industry died of AIDS. With so many of his friends dying, it felt like an entire generation was lost.
  • The Incredible Hulk of all things had a particularly poignant AIDS issue. The character who died, Jim Wilson, wasn't some random one-shot but a friend of Bruce Banner's who had been a recurring character for years. The issue dodges the tricky subject of whether or not the Hulk's blood can cure AIDS (the same way it saved his cousin from a gunshot wound) by having Banner not want to risk creating another monster, and he only pretends to give his blood. Jim later reveals that he wasn't fooled by the ruse but still dies on good terms with his friend.
  • In The Sandman (1989), the inseparable lesbian couple Chantal and Zelda both die from AIDS. Chantal contracted it from an infected kidney transplant, and Zelda is implied to have deliberately infected herself so she wouldn't have to be alone.

     Comic Strips 
  • Doonesbury's Andy Lippincott first appeared in 1976 as a law school classmate of Joanie Caucus, who pursued him romantically until he confessed that he was gay. Flash forward fifteen years to 1989 when Joanie meets him again after a long absence from the comic. Andy was diagnosed with AIDS and made sporadic appearances over the following year before dying while listening to "Wouldn't It Be Nice" on the then-new CD release of The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. The NAMES Project honoured Andy with a panel on the AIDS quilt (although it was never actually sewn into the quilt and currently hangs in the organisation's Atlanta office).

     Films — Live-Action 
  • The central problem in And the Band Played On, which is why its main focus is on the scientists trying to isolate the cause of what was initially, seriously, called "gay cancer".
  • The last quarter or so of Bohemian Rhapsody inevitably brings up Freddie Mercury's AIDS diagnosis and plays it for existential drama, positing that it motivated him to get back to working with the rest of Queen and to perform at the 1985 Live Aid concert. (In reality, however, he didn't get an AIDS diagnosis until 1987.)
  • Boys on the Side: It turns out Robin is dying from AIDS. She succumbs near the end of the film.
  • The Cure is about two boys trying to find the cure to AIDS, since one of them, Dexter, contracted HIV from a blood transfusion. He dies from complications by the film's end.
  • Dallas Buyers Club: Only after Rayon's death does Ron truly have a change of heart, and he begins to show compassion towards gay, lesbian, and transgender members of the club.
  • It was not intended as this by writer-director David Cronenberg, but The Fly — coming as it did at the height of the panic over the disease — was interpreted as this trope couched in fantastical terms by many critics and commentators: The Doomed Protagonist Seth, not long after he has entered into the first romantic relationship of his life, accidentally and unknowingly merges himself with a housefly via a Teleporter Accident. Now a Half-Human Hybrid, his body begins to mutate from the inside out, with one of the first physical signs of the transformation being facial lesions. His entire human body effectively begins to painfully, inexorably rot — he refers to it as "a bizarre form of cancer" — and there seems to be no hope of staving it off or curing it; while it becomes clear that he's becoming a new lifeform, it is still going to be the death of him as a person. His faithful lover Veronica is discouraged by her ex-lover Stathis from being in contact with Seth because his condition might be The Plague, and when she learns she is pregnant by Seth, realizes she might be bringing a mutant into the world. In the Downer Ending, she must Mercy Kill him when his attempt to cure himself — at her expense — goes disastrously wrong. Cronenberg's story is actually a metaphor for aging, disease, and death in general, and if it's referring to a more specific illness it's The Topic of Cancer, but the AIDS interpretation is still discussed and debated to this day.
  • In the 2021 film adaptation of Everybody's Talking About Jamie, Hugo's Movie Bonus Song "This Was Me" reflects on his time as a drag queen in London's gay club scene in the late 80s-early 90s, shown to Jamie through a home video montage. After two verses of triumph, partying, and rebellion, Hugo turns somber as, on video, the AIDS epidemic begins to impact his friends and community. Particular significance is given to Freddie Mercury's passing in 1991 as a milestone event that shook the British gay community. The montage ends with Hugo's lover and cameraman in the hospital, where it is implied he died.
    This was me
    Every heart is made to break
    Sometimes love is a big mistake
    Every weekend was a wake
    But weren't we divine?
  • In Forrest Gump, Jenny dies of a newly-discovered illness that made her "real tired all the time." It's never stated what the illness is by name, but given the time period (sometime in The '80s by the end of the movie), and the wild Bohemian lifestyle she led in the '60s and '70s to cope with her painful childhood, it likely was AIDS. Word of God says that it was actually Hepatitis C.
  • Gia is about model Gia Marie Carangi, who had a substance abuse problem and wound up contracting HIV from an infected needle. She dies from complications from AIDS at the age of 26.
  • Holding the Man, an Australian movie adaptation of a memoir of the same name depicts the love story of said memoir's writer, Timothy "Tim" Conigrave, and his partner John Caleo which ends in John dying from the disease's complication and Tim following suit a few years later, ten days after he finished the memoir on October 6th, 1994. Both the book and the movie adaptation didn't hold back in describing/showing John's deteriorating progression of the disease and Tim's anguish coming from the guilt of infecting John.
  • The Inheritance is partly about the wake of the AIDS crisis in New York, which Walter and Henry directly experienced. Eric learns that they used to take men dying of AIDS to the home upstate to comfort them as they passed, and at the end of Part I tearily meets these ghosts.
  • Jeanne and the Perfect Guy is a love story between a young woman and an HIV-positive young man. It ends with the latter dead.
  • Jeffrey is about a gay man in mid-90's New York City who had sworn off sex due to the AIDS crisis. He falls in love with an HIV-positive man but is afraid to commit to him due to the possibility that he could die soon. One of the supporting characters is an older mentor figure played by Patrick Stewart, whose ditzy younger partner ends up succumbing to AIDS.
  • The plot of The Living End centers around two gay men who, after discovering they have AIDS and not long left to live, embark on a nihilistic and murderous road trip. Neither character definitively dies or survives the film, but the film is a rumination on the interconnectedness of life, sex, and death for queer men in a world with AIDS.
  • Longtime Companion is about AIDS impacting the lives of several gay men, many of whom die because of the disease. The film ends with a heartbreaking Imagine Spot where the three surviving main characters are walking along the beach and are reunited with their lost friends before it cuts back to the three of them alone and wondering if anyone will ever find a cure.
  • In Philadelphia, Andrew Beckett develops AIDS symptoms around the beginning of the film and dies of it by the end. However, his lover Miguel lives and, it is specifically noted, has not been infected with AIDS. In addition, Beckett won his case against his former law partners for firing him on the basis of his suspected illness and sexuality.
  • When RENT was adapted to the big screen in 2005, it was a deliberate choice on the filmmakers' part to portray Angel's death from AIDS in a realistic manner (as opposed to the more abstract "Contact" from the stage musical) so that younger viewers — a generation removed from the AIDS crisis — could see the effects of the disease first-hand.
  • The biopic Saint Laurent has a subplot involving Yves's torrid affair with a young Frenchman named Jacques de Bascher, and it eventually flash-forwards to his death from AIDS and Yves being haunted by his memory.
  • tick, tick... BOOM!:
    • As in the original play, Michael being HIV-positive is a downplayed example of this trope since while the diagnosis is seen as serious and makes Michael reconsider his views on things, he ends the film still alive, even outliving Jon.note 
    • Jon's friend and fellow waiter Freddy is a subversion — his health declines and he is hospitalized, seemingly on death's door, but he ends up making a rebound and gets discharged before the end.
    • The specter of the disease hangs over the film in general, more strongly than the play, with Jon mentioning a number of friends already lost to the virus and fearing there's nothing he can do. The epilogue shows that this will later inspire him to write RENT.

     Literature 
  • In Tout contre Leo (Close to Leo), Leo is very young, gay, and dying of AIDS. The book is told from the point of view of his little brother Marcel.
  • "Funny Boy", one of the Ford County Stories by John Grisham, is about a Southern gay man who returns to Ford County to die despite his family's disowning of him, and where he finds friendship with a kindly old black lady in his final days.
  • In Imajica, a fantasy novel by British horror author Clive Barker (published in 1991), a subplot introduces an openly gay male couple who are friends of the Christ-like protagonist Gentle. One of the gay men, Taylor Briggs, dies of AIDS near the beginning of the story while his partner Clem survives and goes on to help the protagonist. It is mentioned in passing that both men were in a lot of open relationships during the 1970s and "slept around" a lot back before HIV became public knowledge; but only Taylor, the party animal, contracted HIV while his partner was plain lucky and never did, something for which Clem feels Survivor Guilt. Subverted Trope in that both men had been lovers for a long time and their love and relationship are depicted in a very positive light. Later on, Taylor returns as a ghost and reunites with Clem. At the end of the story, after the Reconciliation of all five realms, when all the souls of the dead of Earth and the other four Dominions are free to travel on to... somewhere else before he departs, Taylor asks his lover not to forget him but to go on with his life.
  • The Line Of Beauty is set as the AIDS crisis emerges, and the disease figures heavily into the characters' arcs. Leo, a boyfriend of Nick's, dies from the disease before the third act, and Wani, who is gay and closeted, ends the novel wasting away because of it and will likely die soon. Nick muses that his own HIV test will likely come up positive as well.
  • Given that it's about AIDS in the gay population in the eighties, Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves, obviously.
  • Our Dumb World spoofs this in its section on Botswana, simultaneously one of the most AIDS-afflicted countries on Earth and a model for African development. The joke is that, after finding out it had AIDS, Botswana got its house in order and became a legitimate Third World success story.
  • Handled fairly realistically in She's Come Undone: Mr. Pucci and his partner Gary both die of AIDS, but the focus is more on Mr. Pucci's grief, his uncertainty as he waits to see if he will develop the virus, and early 1980s misunderstanding and prejudice toward HIV/AIDS.
  • Tell the Wolves I'm Home: June's beloved uncle Finn dies because of AIDS as the novel starts, and much of the book is centered around his lover Toby, who is similarly suffering from the disease. Toby deteriorates rapidly near the end of the novel and dies, much to June's heartbreak.
  • Was tells the story of a gay man dying in the 1980s. He is obsessed with The Wizard of Oz and wishes to meet Dorothy Gael, the woman who inspired the original books, before he dies.

     Live-Action TV 
  • In the finale of 13 Reasons Why, teenager Justin dies of AIDS just as his life was starting to look up; he'd unknowingly contracted HIV a few years earlier while working as a prostitute to support himself and his heroin addiction. The plotline was actually criticized for coming off as inaccurate and outdated ( Justin's condition was unlikely to have progressed to AIDS and death in the given timeframe, and by 2020 there's enough research around HIV that it can be treated).
  • In the Babylon 5 episode Confessions and Lamentations, a ship of the Markab people comes to the station carrying a disease that is 100% deadly to their race (and some others with similar blood). Because it originated on an isolated island known for its immorality (their version of Sodom and Gomorrah), the Markab believe the cause was immorality, and refuse to even speak of it, let alone allow Dr. Franklin, chief medical officer, to try to help them. Insisting they are moral and won't contract the disease, they lock themselves into quarantine away from the other "immoral" races. Delenn, ambassador from the Minbari and trusted by the Markab, insists on trying to minister for them. Later, when the crew has found a cure, using other species to test, they open the quarantine area to find a shattered Delenn, and all the Markab on the station have succumbed to the disease.
  • A storyline in Beverly Hills, 90210 sees Kelly befriending Jimmy Gold, a Magical Queer patient in the AIDS hospice where she volunteers. He succumbs to the disease soon after.
  • Cold Case has an episode where the detectives are re-investigating the murder of a gay man in the 1980s. The victim became an AIDS activist after his lover contracted HIV. Flashbacks show him receiving a lot of grief from many gay people who were not yet aware of the seriousness of the situation and thought it was another ploy to destroy the subculture they had built. The present-day investigation is complicated by the fact that many of the witnesses have died of AIDS in the meantime. The victim's lover actually survived the disease and went into remission, and he is the one who comes to the Cold Case detectives asking for the case to be reopened.
  • An Early Frost (1985 U.S. television) is about a homosexual man dying of AIDS who tries to reconcile both of these truths about himself with his family. It was and still is considered a landmark for its time as the first of any kind of movie (in its case made for television) about this subject when the disease and its virus were both very new and were both largely confined to male homosexuals and poor intravenous drug users, especially in America's large mostly liberal coastal cities where so many of these people and reported AIDS cases were from.
  • Fellow Travelers: In 1986, Tim is dying from AIDS when Hawk wants to reconnect before it's too late. As it's the time of the AIDS crisis, this is a threat all gay men are facing, and it hangs over the 1980s sequences and is explicitly discussed multiple times.
  • General Hospital's landmark 1995 storyline in which Stone Cates developed AIDS (he'd caught it from a previous girlfriend) and was devastated to learn that his current girlfriend Robin Scorpio was now HIV-positive.
    • Averted for Robin: her character is still alive as of 2021, though she only appears occasionally on the series.
  • It's a Sin: The period drama centers around the lives of young gay men in London just as the AIDS epidemic hits, from the early signs of a "mystery illness", to the denial that it's spread through casual sex, to the main cast beginning to contract the disease and dealing with the repercussions. Multiple characters die as a result.
  • Hill Street Blues: During Season 3, Detective Belker befriends Eddie Gregg, a gay prostitute who will eventually become one of his snitches. He returns in an episode of Season 6 to reveal that he has been diagnosed with AIDS.
  • The Hogan Family: One of the final episodes, "The Worst Of Times, Best Of Friends," involves recurring character Rich learning he has AIDS. David, one of the main characters in the show, avoids him at first but once he learns more about AIDS and his condition, he reaches out to him and helps him enjoy life. The end of the episode is a flash forward to three months later, where David speaks at a high school assembly about the disease and dispels myths before tearfully explaining that Rich had died the night earlier.
  • Midnight Caller has Jack's ex-girlfriend Tina Cassidy, who gets AIDS from a one-night stand in "After It Happened," sells most of her belongings to pay for healthcare, and finally dies in a hospice in "Someone to Love." Also, a number of side characters from "Someone to Love," including a woman who got it from a blood transfusion, another woman who tells her family she has cancer because of the stigma, and a man who was abandoned by his lover after he got sick.
  • The Midnight Club (2022) is set during The '90s at a hospice for terminal young people, so of course there's one gay teenager with HIV. Anya gives Ilonka a big speech on not pitying him because of it. However, Word of God is that in the cancelled second season, Spence would miraculously recover from his disease.
  • RuPaul's Drag Race naturally broaches the subject a few times:
    • Season 1's Rebecca Glasscock was too distraught to complete an HIV PSA challenge due to having a friend that was dying of AIDS at the time (even with present-day medications, not everyone responds to treatment), as she couldn't be there to support him due to being on the show.
    • Season 9's Charlie Hydes, who was 52 during filming, lived in London during the worst of the AIDS crisis and openly questioned why she was still alive when so many of her friends have died of AIDS (a sentiment shared by many gay men of Charlie's generation).
    • Season 13 contestant Tamisha Iman's late protégé Tandi Iman Dupree was best-known for her showstopping performance at the 2001 Miss Gay Black America pageant, before dying of AIDS in 2005, four years before the premiere of Drag Race. When Tamisha competed on the show, Ru brings up Tandi and her legendary performance; Tamisha and Ru agree that Tandi would have certainly made it on as a contestant if she had survived.
    • Also, at least three contestants have come out as HIV-positive over the course of the franchise: Season 1's Ongina, Season 6's Trinity K. Bonet, and UK Season 3's Charity Kase.
  • Sense8
    • In season 1, Capheus is a poor Nairobi native who starts working for a crime boss to provide for the treatment and medication of his mother, who is living with AIDS. Eventually subverted. Said crime boss is also HIV-positive, they fall in love, and she ends the show provided for.
    • Discussed After actor Lito is outed as gay to the public, Daniela comments that most of the roles he is offered are of gay men who die of AIDS.
  • Sex Education: Defied. Anwar (who is gay) has seen too many movies where a gay character dies of AIDS, and thus never engages in unprotected sex. The nurse also clarifies that medications that will help HIV-positive people live normal lives now exist.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger: A two-episode arc features an orphaned child with terminal AIDS (played by a young Haley Joel Osment) who Walker takes under his wing. In a variation, the child is unaware of his condition for most of the story; Walker has been tasked with informing the child of his condition, and most of the drama derives from his angst over the best way to do it. He eventually (and infamously) succeeds, as seen in this clip.
  • The White Lotus: Mark's father, he learns, really died from AIDS, not cancer as he'd always been told. It happened when Mark was just a kid.
  • Why Women Kill: Karl contracts AIDS in 1984 when there was a huge stigma toward sufferers (especially gay men like him) and a death sentence for most due to limited treatments. We see him visit a man, who he knows, too, dying from AIDS. He decides to kill himself rather than suffer until the end. Later, Simone euthanizes him at his request.
  • St. Elsewhere: In the episode "AIDS and Comfort," initially broadcast on December 21, 1983, hospital staff and patients react with varying degrees of fear after a heterosexual Boston politician afflicted with AIDS is admitted. "AIDS and Comfort" is likely the first example of a fictional U.S. television series presenting a story about AIDS. In the episode "Family Feud," initially broadcast on January 29, 1986, Dr. Bobby Caldwell (played by Mark Harmon) discovers that he is HIV-positive after having his face slashed by a female sex partner. In a later episode, Caldwell dies of AIDS.

  • North Of 60: A teenager and male prostitute named Nevada, who is an old acquaintance of Teevee Tenia from Season 1, comes to Lynx River in Season 3 under the guise of being an arts student named "Frank Corbin" (stole the ID card off a university professor who was seeing him for "services"). Willie Tsa'che takes Nevada in and gives him a home, but then learns that Nevada is HIV-positive. Poor Nevada's story arc goes downhill from there; he becomes physically weaker, Mary (nurse) outs his illness to a local schoolteacher, and Nevada is relentlessly bullied and physically assaulted. The one good thing to distract from the tragedy is that Willie and a pretentious local artist named Ben Montour still want to keep looking after Nevada until he dies. Montour gives Nevada some advice about living with HIV/AIDS: "Life is a memory, kid. It's not yesterday or tomorrow, it's happening right here, right now!"

     Music 
  • In a case of this trope mixing with The Cover Changes the Meaning, Michael Jackson's 1991 cover of "Gone Too Soon" is a eulogy to Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who was infamously expelled from school in 1985 after contracting HIV from a faulty Factor VIII blood treatment the year prior; White, who died of complications from AIDS in 1990, had befriended Jackson in the waning years of his life.
  • The Paula Cole and Peter Gabriel collaboration "Hush Hush Hush" is about a young teenager dying of AIDS who kept his attraction to men hidden.
  • "Letting the Cables Sleep" by Bush was written by Gavin Rossdale for a friend of his who had contracted HIV and tried to keep his diagnosis quiet out of fear of rejection.
  • Prince: The Title Track to Sign o' the Times kicks off with a pair of lines describing how "in France a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name; by chance, his girlfriend came across a needle and soon she did the same," alluding to the AIDS crisis and the high rates of infection among heroin users. This event is juxtaposed with a number of other scenes of disaster, hardship, and overall tragedy.
  • Lou Reed's "Halloween Parade" is about how the disease had claimed so many of the regular participants in the Village's annual parade.
  • In "Waterfalls" by TLC, the second verse is about a promiscuous man who ultimately dies of AIDS, the "three letters [that] took him to his final resting place" being HIV. In a mild subversion of this trope, the man is straight.

     Puppet Shows 
  • Averted, of all places, on Takalani Sesame, the South African version of Sesame Street. Muppet character Kami is HIV-positive due to a blood transfusion she received as an infant but is otherwise perfectly healthy. The character was created to teach children that the disease is nothing to be ashamed of, hoping to reduce the stigma in areas of Africa where HIV was at epidemic levels. Unfortunately, the news took some flak from Moral Guardians who wrongly thought the character was intended for the American version of the show.
  • Team America: World Police ruthlessly spoofing RENT in a Show Within a Show (LEASE) meant that this trope was inevitable. It's parodied in the form of the musical number "Everyone Has AIDS", in which the protagonist's best friend has died of the disease, while a number of his family members, his dog, and the Pope has contracted it.

     Theatre 
  • In Falsettos, Whizzer spends most of Act Two hospitalized because of this, though the disease is never officially called as such due to the 1981 setting, and he dies just before the show finishes. There is also some ambiguity as to whether a similar fate awaits Whizzer's lover, Marvin, as Dr. Charlotte tells him the disease "spreads from one man to another". note 
  • Jerker is a short play about two men with AIDS who connect over a phone sex line. Their relationship quickly moves beyond the erotic. Then one day the phone goes unanswered; soon the line is disconnected.
  • The Normal Heart, a 1985 play about the dawn of the AIDS epidemic in the gay community in the early '80s. Painfully Truth in Television, it is an essentially autobiographical account of Larry Kramer's founding of the Gay Men's Health Crisis and, later, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). The main character, Ned Weeks, is essentially Kramer; his "great, true love" Felix dies of AIDS at the end of the play, as do several other main characters and hundreds offscreen. The play's raw fury at the government's and the rest of the world's refusal to help — even as the death toll exceeded that of the American Civil War — when the play debuted in '85 is in part credited with bringing national attention to the crisis for the first time.
  • In RENT, several of the main characters have the disease, as was Truth in Television for writer Jonathan Larson's real circle of friends.
    • Roger's ex-girlfriend April killed herself shortly after finding out she and Roger were infected. Musician Roger's only goal in life is to write one song that he will be remembered by before he too succumbs to the disease.
    • Tom Collins has been infected for an undisclosed amount of time but uses his time left as an anarchist activist, which gets him fired from his teaching position at MIT. He returns to New York to work at NYU and is promptly beaten up for his coat when he meets...
    • Angel, a drag queen who nurses Collins's injuries and falls in love with him partly due to their mutual AIDS diagnosis. They have the most stable and loving relationship in the play, so of course, Angel dies partway through Act II.
    • Finally, Mimi is a heroin addict who falls in love with Roger while also coming dangerously close to tempting him back to his former self-destructive lifestyle. She almost dies in the play's finale, but Roger pulls her back from the light with the song he finally managed to write. In the end, the message isn't one of tragedy, but hope, as the characters repeat the mantra of living each day as though it could be their last.
  • tick, tick... BOOM!: An earlier work of Larson's from 1990 downplayed this with Michael, who reveals late in the play that he is HIV positive after Jon accuses him of not understanding his fears of time running out before he can make a difference. Michael, who was all about his high-paying job early in the play, has a change of heart after his diagnosis and encourages Jon to pursue his art. The play ends with Michael still alive but with an uncertain future.note 

     Video Games 
  • A very odd example occurs in Avalon, where AIDS ended up wiping out an entire alien race known as the Sinnet, leaving only one survivor who wants revenge on humanity.
  • In the Criminal Case: The Conspiracy case "Flatline", family doctor Greg Gibbs is found dead amongst the wreckage of an earthquake with his throat cut open. One of the suspects is a plumber, Richard Harding. He winds up further on the suspect list when you find out he is HIV positive. When questioned, he reveals that he actually wanted to switch doctors, as while Gibbs promised to keep Richard's illness a secret, he ended up sending a brochure on supporting an HIV-positive person to Harding's wife. The wife assumed Richard was hiding the disease from her (he was actually trying to find the right way to tell her), and thus divorced him. You ultimately find out that Richard is the killer. When being arrested, he explains that while he was working in the walls of Greg's office after the divorce, he overheard Dr. Gibbs dictate that he actually was the one who gave Richard the HIV in the first place, as he used a dirty needle when doing a blood test on him. When Richard rightfully confronted the doctor, Gibbs tried to buy him off and said he had no proof, but Richard was not having it. When the earthquake struck, Richard saw his chance for revenge, killing Greg and leaving his body amongst the rubble.
  • Introduced in Sonic Adventure 2, Maria Robotnik from Sonic The Hedgehog was a child who had NIDS, which has similar attributes to HIV-AIDS, and died several decades in the past. Maria had it most, if not all, of her life. Her grandfather raised her in a special center in space trying to find a way to cure Maria. Maria doesn't end up dying of the illness, however. She ends up getting shot during a massacre and delivers a Heroic Sacrifice for Shadow. Maria is of the Too Good for This Sinful Earth variety.

     Web Original 
  • In the AlternateHistory.com story For All Time, HIV/AIDS is known as SPID or Sindrom priobretennovo immunodeficita (syndrome of acquired immunodeficiency) due to the Soviets discovering it before the United States. Sadly, due to a combination of constant warfare (it's that kind of story) and the inefficiencies of the Soviet blood donation system, by 2002 35% of the Eurasian continent has contracted it. It's revealed that Patient Zero for the Eurasian pandemic was a Soviet soldier who contracted it from a blood transfusion he received in the Congo, and he unwittingly spread it by donating his blood once every three weeks.

     Western Animation 
  • Deconstructed in the South Park episode "Tonsil Trouble". Cartman contracts HIV after receiving a blood transfusion during routine tonsil surgery (even though donated blood has been screened for HIV since the early '90s but it could speak to the incompetence of South Park doctors for having that happen), but he has a hard time finding anybody who cares since AIDS is viewed as a "forgotten" illness compared to cancer. He and Kyle (who Cartman also infected out of spite) seek out Magic Johnson and find out the reason he has been healthy all these years is that he sleeps with all his money, and scientists discover that the cure for AIDS is cash injected into the bloodstream... which means precisely jack to the people of Africa. The world is apathetic to this development because it wasn't the cure for cancer.

Top