Today would have been Rock Hudson’s 85th birthday. We lost the screen legend twenty-five years ago, at the age of 59, on October 2, 1985, from complications of HIV/AIDS. Rock Hudson, born Roy Harold Scherer, Jr., in Winetka, IL, made his film debut in Fighter Squadron (1948). His manly, wholesome good looks made him a popular star in melodramas such as Magnificent Obsession (1954) and All That Heaven Allows (1955), and he displayed a flair for comedy in a series of films with Doris Day, including Pillow Talk (1959), Come September (1961), and Send Me No Flowers (1964). He later starred in the television series McMillan and Wife (1971–77).
In June 1984, Hudson was diagnosed with HIV, however but when the signs of illness became apparent, his publicity staff and doctors told the public he had inoperable liver cancer. It wasn’t until a year later, while receiving treatment in Paris, that Hudson issued a press release announcing that he was dying of AIDS. Initial reports speculated that Hudson had been infected with the HIV virus through a blood transfusion he received during a bypass procedure in 1981, however, after his death, his homosexuality was confirmed by former partners.
Hudson’s death from AIDS was a turning point in the public’s perception of the illness. Until that time, HIV/AIDS had been dismissed by a large section of the population as a so-called “gay plague”, affecting relatively low numbers of people limited to high-risk groups. Hudson’s death changed that idea, and as actress Morgan Fairchild said: “Rock Hudson’s death gave AIDS a face.”
What are HIV and AIDS? (source: NIAID)
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV attacks the immune system by destroying CD4 positive (CD4+) T cells, a type of white blood cell that is vital to fighting off infection. The destruction of these cells leaves people infected with HIV vulnerable to other infections, diseases and other complications.
AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. A person infected with HIV is diagnosed with AIDS when he or she has one or more opportunistic infections, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis, and has a dangerously low number of CD4+ T cells (less than 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood). Opportunistic infections are infections from organisms (bacterial, viral, fungal or protozoan) that normally do not cause disease in healthy people.
HIV Risk Factors
HIV is found in the blood, semen, or vaginal fluid of someone who is infected with the virus. You may be at increased risk of becoming infected with HIV if you:
Quick Facts About HIV Transmission:
HIV/AIDS is a large, complex subject, so we will talk more about it in future blog articles. In the meantime, click here for more information about HIV/AIDs in the Resounding Health Casebook on the subject.