Pop star Troye Sivan fights HIV stigma in first big film role

Actor Troye Sivan arrives for the premiere of the movie
FILE PHOTO: Actor Troye Sivan arrives for the premiere of the movie "Boy Erased" at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

February 18, 2022

By Samuel Baugh

(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Australian pop singer Troye Sivan, whose YouTube videos and music have inspired a generation of young LGBTQ+ people, wants his first major film role to combat ignorance around HIV/AIDS.

In “Three Months”, Sivan plays 17-year-old Caleb, who is exposed to HIV after a one-night stand on the eve of his high school graduation.

The film details the shame and anxiety Caleb experiences while waiting three months for diagnosis. Current medical guidelines require 12 weeks from exposure to be 100% certain.

Set in 2011, when a positive diagnosis was no longer a death sentence but fear and ignorance remained rife, the film explores the lingering stigma faced by people living with HIV.

“I think there’s a lot of, not necessarily misinformation, but a lot of kind of ignorance (around HIV),” Sivan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a video call from Los Angeles.

“I would love it if this movie plays a part in getting rid of the stigma around HIV and educates people on the fact that with access to healthcare, this is not a death sentence at all anymore.”

The 26-year-old star rose to prominence after joining YouTube in 2007, coming out as gay in 2013 and becoming known for his music, personable nature and collaborations with other YouTubers. He now has more than 7.5 million subscribers.

Sivan released his debut album “Blue Neighbourhood” in 2015 with his second, “Bloom”, in 2018 peaking at No. 4 on the U.S. album chart. He is one of the most streamed artists of all time on Spotify (Top 200) with more than 5 billion total streams.

Sivan has had smaller roles in South African teen drama “Spud” and Hollywood blockbuster “X-Men”.

But “Three Months” – to be released on Feb. 23 on the Paramount+ streaming platform – marks his first major lead role.

For the film’s writer and director, Jared Frieder, Sivan was the obvious choice.

“I always thought of Troye for this role,” Frieder said in a video interview, adding that he started writing the script when Troye was rising to fame on YouTube.

CHANGING TIMES

Sivan was born in South Africa and raised in Australia. He now splits his life between Los Angeles and Melbourne.

Sivan said he was never schooled on either LGBTQ+ issues or HIV/AIDS while growing up.

“During sex ed at school, I was never ever, ever taught about HIV specifically … gay sex was never, never spoken about.”

There were also few openly LGBTQ+ characters on screen.

“When I was growing up, I remember the two, maybe three times I saw queer stories in TV and film. And I remember it being a very, very, very formative experience,” said Sivan.

“Those were kind of like, these rare, rare moments that I remember felt so private to me, that I was like ‘Oh, my God, I need to watch this in the middle of the night’,” he said.

Frieder said he hoped “Three Months” would help fill the gap for LGBTQ+ people growing up, wherever they are in the world.

“I want people to feel less alone. If this movie helps kids see themselves on screen, especially queer kids, that would be the joy of my life,” he said.

(Reporting by Samuel George Baugh in London; Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)