Rent, based on Puccini's classic opera La Boheme, doesn't relegate characters with AIDS to the background. Instead, much as tuberculosis was a central theme of the tragic opera, AIDS affects all the characters in one way or another. In addition to several supporting characters who are HIV-positive, Rent has four main characters who are grappling with the disease, three of whom are played by the actors who originated the roles in the Broadway production.
Tom Collins, reprised by Jesse L. Martin (Law & Order). Tom is an HIV-positive gay man who becomes lovers with Angel, who also is HIV-positive.
Roger Davis, reprised by actor Adam Pascal (The School of Rock). It's unclear whether Roger contracted HIV through injection-drug use or through unprotected sex with his girlfriend, a drug user who killed herself after being diagnosed with HIV infection.
Angel Schunard, reprised by Wilson Jermaine Heredia. Angel is an HIV-positive drag queen who meets and falls in love with Tom.
Mimi Marquez, played by Rosario Dawson (Sin City, Alexander, Men in Black II). Mimi was infected with HIV through injection drug use. (Daphne Rubin-Vega originated the role on Broadway.)
The film also includes Taye Diggs, Idina Menzel, and Tracie Thoms in starring roles.