W817: Wait A Second... HIV?
Yesterday (like everyday) I turned on the TV, browsed through my recordings and put on an episode of W817 . The name probably doesn’t mean much to the international crowd, but in Belgium it was a very popular teenage show that played from 1999 to 2003. I used to watch it every day after school and I can still appreciate it now because well, it’s awesome. The show talks about 6 students living together in a student house and the adventures they go through. At a first glance it’s quite the typical show filled with heartbreak, funny moments and teenage drama, but it was known at the time to be quite progressive. Why? It was one of the first shows in Belgium that featured a gay man not as the stereotypical ‘oh my God!’-type with a pink handbag but as a regular person and treated as such. And that’s not the only stereotype they wanted to beat. In yesterday’s episode I was reminded of the fact that they also talk about HIV. One of the characters has a boyfriend called Mickey, who turns out to be seropositive. The reason why I love this show so much is the way they handled it. First you saw the housemates reacting in shock and ignorance by for example not wanting to drink from the same cup as the infected person. In a funny, yet direct way the show explains its viewers how HIV exactly works and how the person got infected. The thing is, they don’t talk in a scientific way, they give attention to the emotional aspect (which is regularly forgotten in other shows) and take you through the battle Mickey fights against the illness and the support he gets from his girlfriend and friends. It’s about acceptance, treating someone as a person and not as a disease or a sexual preference and I think that’s one of the most important things you can teach a teenager. It's what we at Designers against AIDS aim to do each and every day!