Stage, TV, and big-screen veteran Scott Bakula, who stars as Capt. Jonathan Archer on the UPN Star Trek series Enterprise, says he could not be happier that his network's parent company'Viacom'and his program in particular are tackling HIV issues.
'It's easy to say stuff and to issue press releases, but it's an entirely different thing to put it into practice,' he says of the 'Know HIV/AIDS' initiative. 'We've put AIDS on the back burner for too many years. So it's important that a company like Viacom'and I hope more corporations and people with power'refocus on it.'
Enterprise addressed AIDS in an episode that aired February 5 by dissecting the stigma and discrimination associated with a Vulcan immunodeficiency disease transmitted through telepathic connections called 'mind melds' that are considered 'unnatural' by the majority of the beings on the show. Bakula says the episode, appropriately titled 'Stigma,' very much mirrored how many Americans in the early stages of the pandemic viewed HIV-positive people as somehow being deserving of the disease because they became infected through taboo sex or drug use.
'How you're infected shouldn't matter,' Bakula says of the moral of the Enterprise story. 'That's the lesson we all had to learn in this country. Here, AIDS was originally a gay disease, and certainly in the middle of the country that's how it was widely perceived and sometimes still is perceived to be. But it's an issue that affects everybody.'
He also thinks the 'Know HIV/AIDS' initiative has served as a needed wake-up call for people working in the entertainment industry who may have fallen under the misconception that the pandemic has been contained and that the threat of AIDS in America has diminished.
'We tend to lose sight of it here in this town [Los Angeles],' notes Bakula, who has participated in numerous AIDS fund-raisers, including a 1995 benefit concert at New York's Carnegie Hall to support Gay Men's Health Crisis and contributing a Christmas song to a CD benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. 'It's easy to look past it because we're in the community, we're aware of it, we've all been touched by it, and it's something that we feel is being handled. But it's not. The word still has to get out there, and that's the challenge that anyone who cares about this issue faces.'