Rock Hudson Announced He Had AIDS On July 25, 1985

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ROCK HUDSON AIDS ANNOUNCEMENT
American actor Rock Hudson (1925 - 1985) standing next to a vintage Rolls-Royce car, circa 1960. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images) | Getty

On this day, July 25, 1985, HIV/AIDS was given a global spotlight when it was announced that screen icon Rock Hudson was suffering from the disease.

Looking gaunt and almost unrecognizable, rumors began to circulate about his health earlier in the summer when the actor had made a public appearance to promote a new cable series of his friend and former co-star Doris Day.

After collapsing in Paris in July 1985, he was diagnosed with AIDS and given treatment with the drug HPA-23, which at the time was unavailable in the United States. It was while he was in the hospital that it was announced to the public that Hudson had AIDS:

"According to publicist Yanou Collart, who acted as his spokeswoman in Paris, the decision was Hudson's. 'The hardest thing I ever had to do in my life was to walk into his room and read him the press release,' says Collart. "I'll never forget the look on his face. How can I explain it? Very few people knew he was gay. In his eyes was the realization that he was destroying his own image. After I read it, he said simply, 'That's it, it has to be done.' "

Hudson passed away at the age of 59, on October 2, 1985, less than three months after the announcement, in his Beverly Hills home. In his last weeks he was visited by many famous friends such as Carol Burnett, Roddy McDowell and Elizabeth Taylor, who upon his death was reported as saying "Please God, he did not die in vain."

Hudson's AIDS diagnosis put the disease into the headlines and changed the way the public thought of AIDS patients, as well as gay stereotypes. Before his death he created the Rock Hudson AIDS Foundation, donating the $250,000 he received from an advance of a biography to the foundation.

Hudson's death is also credited with jumpstarting Elizabeth Taylor's fundraising crusade to fight AIDS and Chairman of California's AIDS Advisory Board Committee Bruce Decker said upon Hudson's death: "His illness and death have moved the fight against AIDS ahead more in three months than anything in the past three years."

Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin was quoted as saying: "I'm sure Rock's coming out will stand as a landmark in the gay community."

Below, watch a news report below from 1985 about Hudson's "mystery illness," as well scenes from "Pillow Talk" where Hudson pretends to be gay to get closer to Doris Day.

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