’13 Reasons Why’ final series criticised for unrealistic depiction of HIV

Warning: Spoilers

The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has faced plenty of criticism over its four seasons, and a significant amount of praise for tackling serious issues that effect young people. The show doesn’t always get it right, and with it’s final series fans have expressed disappointment on how the show portrays the issue of HIV.

The fourth and final series of the show has just been released on the streaming channel and viewers have found the final episodes that wrap up the series heartbreaking, ignorant and frustrating.

In the show’s penultimate episode the character of Justin (Brandon Flynn), who tackled drug use, homelessness and many other challenges over the show’s journey, suddenly collapses at the school prom. At the hospital doctors reveal he has contracted HIV, and within just a few weeks he dies of an AIDS-related illness.

Given that most people living with HIV are able to manage their illness and lead full lives, maintain a non-transmissible viral load, and doctors rarely see HIV progress to an AIDS diagnosis in 2020, the show has been accused of putting forward an ignorant depiction of living with HIV.

Britain’s Terrance Higgins Trust has criticised the episode, writing in Radio Times Liam Beattie, Senior Media Officer, says the writers were being lazy and sensationalist.

“Justin’s story arc couldn’t be further from the reality of HIV for the vast majority of people who receive a positive diagnosis. And, as a message to the show’s young audience, is potentially really damaging if they’re hearing about HIV for the very first time.” Beattie said.

The spokesperson for the HIV Awareness organisation said the biggest hurdle to ending HIV in many countries including Great Britain was not scientific know-how but prejudice and stigma associated with the condition.

“The show had a real opportunity to inform and educate its young audience about the realities of HIV, but instead it chose fear over reality.” Beattie said.

Actor Dylan Minnette, who portrayed the character of Clay, has defended the writers decision to kill Justin off in this manner saying it created the set up for the powerful scenes that wrapped up the series.

OIP Staff


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