Rock Hudson had been in a ton of movies and spent plenty of time on TV by that point, but he knew he had at least one big performance left. One of his many biographers wrote that he considered dying with grace to be the finest kind of performance he could go through.
He had already put a beloved face to a deadly and difficult disease, thus changing the public perception and opening the door to much more advancement in later years and decades. Just think, without him, we might not have a drug that not only makes this disease not a death sentence, but you can learn to live with the disease for the rest of one’s natural life. It required a famous name to make such a monumental change in the public consciousness.
Doing Some Good
While there were many who suffered from AIDS and HIV, Rock Hudson was among the first celebrities to come out and declare that he actually had it – which he did on July 25th, 1985. Due to the stigma, those who were hit with it kept it to themselves and their loved ones.
But Hudson’s actions began to reverse the stigma and began the long process of turning it into something that a person could fight – but it took a lot of effort and bravery to make the announcement. Suddenly, the stigma that surrounded the disease had taken a hit. Though the road was a long one, Hudson’s decision to go public eventually led to a greater focus on the disease and eventually a cure. He turned it from a moral affliction into a disease.
A Rush of Celebrity Support
After Hudson came out as suffering from HIV, numerous people came out in support of his situation and the fight against the virus. William H. Hoffman, an author of a Broadway play about AIDS, was one of the first to offer support, and the list of names only grew from there.
Those others included Frank Sinatra, Gregory Peck, Marlene Dietrich, James Garner, Carol Burnett, Ali McGraw, Jack Lemmon, Richard Dreyfuss, Ava Gardner, Mickey Rooney, Milton Berle, and even Madonna. Joan Rivers also lent her support. She had been hosting AIDS benefits for several years, and couldn’t get a single major star to show up to help out. Hudson’s admission was an act of true courage, and it drew a lot of public attention to the disease.
Taking Comfort During His Illness
After his announcement, charity events for the disease suddenly started to appear. Every single one of them extended an invitation to Hudson hoping that he would be up for making the trip, but his worsening health made it impossible for him to keep up with the invites.
Yet Hudson was still encouraged to take a certain amount of comfort during all the time he was suffering. He found he could take comfort because he had inspired others to fight against the disease. In a telegram to an AIDS benefit in 1985, he said that, while he wasn’t happy he was sick, that he wasn’t happy he had AIDS, he was at least happy that his misfortune had some kind of positive impact on the world.
Using His Money for Good
Hudson wasn’t just settling for using his star power to raise awareness. He was going so far as to put his money where his mouth was in the classic sense, donating $250,000 to amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research. After decades of being a leading man in Hollywood, Hudson had a certain amount of cash to throw around to causes that he found to be proper, and no doubt this was at the top of his list.
This foundation has gone on to support advancing AIDS and HIV research, as well as provide education to the public and work toward advancing public policy for those suffering from the disease. Many people would have considered his bravery in revealing his disease a bright spot in his life, but he decided to do even more.