Today in Gay History: Rock Hudson Has AIDS

7.25.2013

By Andrew Belonsky

Actor's July 25, 1985 announcement changed the world.

It's clear that Rock Hudson hoped to keep his AIDS diagnosis a secret. The original plan, according to biographer Sara Davidson, was for Hudson to die peacefully in Palm Springs and for the cause of death to be listed as liver disease. Then, while in Paris, Hudson collapsed and was taken to the American Hospital, where officials insisted the actor reveal the truth.

"They didn't accept AIDS cases in the hospital, and they said either he would have to announce it, or they would. When the statement was drafted, Rock"s publicist and his secretary read it to him, and all he said was, 'Go ahead, it"s been hidden long enough,'" she said.

The news of Hudson's diagnosis, announced twenty-eight years ago today, was a watershed moment. It was the first time a celebrity had come out as HIV-positive and showed the world that even Hollywood hunks, even quintessential leading men like Rock Hudson, could contract the disease. (It also helped challenge the stereotype of the gay man.) AIDS wasn't just for junkies and street urchins. It was a disease that impacted everyone.

Hudson died less than three months later, on October 2, 1985. Dale Olson, a publicist who had originally tried to hide the truth, said at the time that Hudson's death "will increase the impact that his dislcosure of AIDS already made, and that is, more attention to how important this disease is..."

Here's video of longtime NBC reporter Sue Simmons reporting on Hudson's Paris hospital stay and a later report on the actor's death. He was only 59.

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