It's a Sin: New series on AIDS epidemic tackles the dangers of misinformation

This show on the HIV/AIDS epidemic warns viewers of the devastating consequences of misinformation

It's a Sin
(Image credit: Channel 4)

The word "unprecedented" is used to describe the Covid-19 pandemic, but it isn't the first time the world has been terrified by a mysterious and deadly virus. 

It's a Sin, the latest production by Russell T. Davies, explores the AIDS epidemic in 1980s Britain, zooming in on misinformation that surrounded it at the time. While the illness is biologically different, its media coverage and public reception are eerily similar to Covid-19. 

The show gives viewers a grim glimpse into how easy it is to fall prey to rumors and conspiracy theories and the detrimental consequences of a culture of fear and distrust. 

The five-part miniseries, airing on HBO Max in the U.S. and Channel 4 in the U.K., follows the story of five young people in 1981 in London as they navigate the trials and tribulations of finding love, friendship, and work in a new place. 

Ritchie, Roscoe, Colin, and Ash come from different backgrounds but are united by their experiences of homophobia as gay men in a backward Britain. With their friend Jill, they move into a flat affectionately dubbed Pink Palace and throw themselves headfirst into the blissful hallmarks of careless youth: parties, alcohol, and sex. 

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No matter how loud the music blares or how fast the bottle drains, there’s no escaping a troubling new reality gripping the country. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is rising. The mysterious condition can cause AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency virus, which leaves the patient terminally ill. Despite its high prevalence in the gay community, warnings of the disease are met with skepticism and even denial. 

Ritchie, played by Olly Alexander, is particularly dismissive of the outcry. The aspiring actor scoffs at the existence of AIDS to his friends, calling it a “pack of lies.” He even puts forward conspiracy theories that heterosexual people are spreading rumors to deter gay people from having sex. “They want to scare us and stop us having sex and make us really boring.” 

However, as the episodes unfold, the extent of the AIDS epidemic becomes brutally clear. The series depicts the devastating consequences of misinformation, including bigotry against the LGBTQ+ community and preventable fatalities. 

Viewers can now watch the show in full on Channel 4 On Demand. In America, it will be available to stream in full on HBO Max starting on February 18.

Emma Dooney
Lifestyle News Writer

Hailing from the lovely city of Dublin, Emma mainly covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health and wellness feature. Always up for a good conversation, she has a passion for interviewing everyone from A-list celebrities to the local GP - or just about anyone who will chat to her, really.

Emma holds an MA in International Journalism from City, University of London, and a BA in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.