Three Months Starring Troye Sivan, Brings HIV Advocacy into Focus

Three Months, starring Troye Sivan (Boy Erased, X-men: Origins), is sparking new conversation for new generations in its debut on Paramount+. 

The film, based on a true story, stars the singer and actor as a teenager in 2011 who fears he has been exposed to HIV and must wait three months to know for sure. 

“I gravitate towards projects that I feel can help progress a conversation…. I think being able to take what I love and feel like it might actually affect some sort of change, or show someone themselves on the screen,” Sivan said in an interview with GLAAD’s Head of Talent, Anthony Allen Ramos. “That just feels so much more exciting to me.” 

Ramos discussed the ongoing HIV pandemic with Sivan, the film's director and writer, Jared Frieder, and other cast members including Javier Muñoz (who was diagnosed with HIV in 2002), about the issues raised in the film and about the importance of seeing HIV stories and characters living with HIV.

"This [film] would have blown me away 20 years ago. It has that unique perspective that us older folks have of surviving the 80's and 90's and losing so many people, and that whole journey to arrive at this point where this is a treatable virus,” Muñoz told GLAAD. “[Where] my life is full, I'm taking one pill a day, we're having full lives, having full careers, making dreams come true. Just thinking about this film existing 20 years ago would have blown people's minds. [We need] conversation! Dialogue! Getting out of the fear of saying some of this stuff out loud, or just talking about sex, sexuality, safe sex, talking about HIV and what does it mean.” 

Muñoz goes on to note the fact that there are “people in the world who don't know how this is transmitted, and these are sexually active human beings. Literally making it something that's approachable, something that folks don't have to be scared to think about, talk about, ask about."

The film is based in Florida, which has the highest rates of new HIV infections in the United States. According to GLAAD’s latest Studio Responsibility Index, there have been zero films featuring a character living with HIV or having an HIV storyline. 

GLAAD's Where We Are on TV report also found that after the conclusion of the FX series, Pose in 2021, the number of characters living with HIV on TV dropped from three to two, with both characters recurring rather than series regulars.

About 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV. The Southern U.S. accounts for 51% of new HIV cases annually even though just 38% of the U.S. population lives in the region.

Claude E. Bowen, a reverend based in Atlanta and involved with HIV advocacy for over 35 years, says that the film is another needed effort to raise the awareness of HIV. 

“I still see it as an epidemic due to the continued disparity in HIV care in marginalized communities (communities of color), which contributes to the rising number of newly infected cases among our youth, gay and bisexual men, trans women, and people who use drugs,” he said. 

“The numbers have not decreased as many believe, rather shifted to another segment of the disenfranchised,” Rev. Bowen continued. “Societal ignorance along with systematic racism and hate are barriers to the education and prevention needed to eradicate continued infection.” 

GLAAD’s 2021 State of HIV Stigma report found that fewer than half of Americans (48%) feel knowledgeable about HIV; only 42% knew the fact that effectively treating HIV suppresses the virus to the point of being undetectable and therefore untransmittable, U=U; only 64% were aware that medications exist to easily prevent HIV.

Rev. Bowen, whose HIV advocacy group Thrive SS is a grantee of the Gilead COMPASS Initiative, says prevention can’t take hold without education and “neither will ever be effective until the same resources that were used in the White community become available.”

“It’s a struggle and fortunately there are people that are willing to take on this burden yet they face resistance on multiple fronts. It is the responsibility of all of us to care for all of us.” 

“When I talk to my straight friends about this medication that I take, PrEP, they're like 'oh, what is that?' They truly have no sense of - I'm sure some people do - but a lot of people really don't know the state of HIV today, and what it looks like today. We've been told stories and very few of them from a more current perspective,” Sivan said on the state of HIV prevention today.

Three Months is one of the first movies to make it to screen from a script submitted to the GLAAD List, a campaign to increase LGBTQ representation in film both on-screen and nurture LGBTQ creative talent behind the scenes. The film was a 2019 selection. 

"It's just a really beautiful gift for queer storytellers out here in Hollywood who so often have an uphill battle to try and tell our stories just because the patriarchy is hard at work at all times,” Frider said of the GLAAD list. “To have an organization like GLAAD create a list that can just inspire us to keep going and to tell our stories, even though getting them made can be challenging. Never underestimate how much a tiny confidence boost to an artist and creative can just fuel their spirit. That's what the GLAAD list did for me.”

Three Months premiered on February 23rd and is available on Paramount+.