3 Months: A Modern HIV Story
We are fortunate to live in a time where HIV treatment and prevention look entirely different from the early days of the epidemic. HIV medications can decrease viral loads, making them virtually undetectable (and untransmittable), and preventative medications, PrEP being one of the most common, reduce the risk of getting HIV through sex by 99 percent.
But, in spite of the medical advancements that have turned this disease that was once considered a “death sentence” into something manageable with proper care, popular culture hasn’t evolved to keep up. Recent shows and films, like Bohemian Rhapsody and It’s A Sin, continue to tell stories about HIV from the lens of the 80’s and 90’s, largely ignoring the recent strides in treatment and prevention, and often exacerbating old prejudices and misconceptions.
“We've been programmed by society to feel fear and shame when it comes to HIV,” says Jared Frieder, writer-director of 3 Months. “And I want to keep having dialogues about that stigma so we can overcome it.”
In a landscape of HIV ghost stories, Frieder has done something quietly revolutionary: he has made a modern HIV film. One that is filled with laughter and hope and love. It begins with Caleb (a never better Troye Sivan) as he graduates high school and learns that he’s potentially been exposed to HIV and must wait 3 months for the test results.
We spoke to Mr. Frieder about 3 Months (now streaming on Paramount+), coming-of-age stories, comedy, and Troye Sivan (obviously).
I've heard that 3 months is inspired by your life, is that true?
Yes! First of all, I'm a nice gay Jewish boy from Florida, and so is Caleb (played by Troye Sivan). Also, as gay men, we all know what it's like to wait for test results. I wanted to capture the uncertainty of that time period and show that—with access to medical care—HIV is no longer a death sentence in our modern world.
What made you want to explore a modern hiv story?
I wanted to tell an uplifting, hopeful, fun story about a kid realizing that HIV is no longer a death sentence and the very things that make him different—the very things he feels shame about—are the very things that make him indispensable, worthy of love, and worthy of celebration.
Can you talk a bit about the choice to tell this story through a comedic lens?
Queer people are funnier than straight people—this is not up for discussion, it is a fact. We use humor to cope with the traumas life throws at us. For me, it was important to be authentic to the queer experience and have Caleb deal with his tribulations with humor. It just felt honest.
This is a movie about waiting that was literally stopped mid-production because of covid-19. What was that wait like?
It was emotional waterboarding. This is a film about someone who has to wait in uncertainty because of a virus, and we literally had to wait in uncertainty because of a virus. But Caleb fights for what he wants while he waits, and I took a page from his book. I fought every single day for this movie until we finished and thank god we did.
How did Troye get involved? What was it like working with him on the character of caleb?
Troye was always Caleb. I wrote him as the kid I wished I could've been in high school (cool, magnetic, confident) and that is Troye. He is such a brilliant actor—he carries this movie on his back and has to access the full emotional spectrum to bring Caleb to life. He's a movie star and I can't wait for people to see him in this role.
This is a queer coming-of-age story with an impactful twist. Watching felt like you have a real love for that genre. Do you have any favorites that have inspired you over the years?
Oh absolutely. Juno is probably my favorite coming-of-age story. I love the way they took serious themes and topics and made them accessible and hopeful. Other coming of age favorites of mine are Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Dirty Dancing, and The Breakfast Club.
Hiv stigma is still rampant in the queer community, is there anything in particular you hoped for viewers to take away from 3 months?
I want people to realize that—again—HIV is no longer a death sentence. We've been programmed by society to feel fear and shame when it comes to HIV, and I want to keep having dialogues about that stigma so we can overcome it.
This is your directorial debut. Congrats! What’s next for you?
It's all under wraps but maybe a little superhero thing, maybe a little story about porn. Stay tuned!