Throwback ThursdayOn Oct. 2, 1985, we lost Hollywood legend, Rock Hudson. He was also the first celebrity to succumb to complications related to AIDS, which brought a great deal of attention to the epidemic. Before Rock Hudson's death, the majority of Americans, and mainstream media, were content to ignore AIDS as a disease that only afflicted the homosexual population.

Hudson Was a 1950s Hollywood Heartthrob

Rock Hudson was born in Illinois in 1925. He became a heartthrob of Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s, starring in countless romantic comedies and dramas. He also appeared in a successful TV series during the 1970s and continued to work into the early 1980s. Unbeknownst to the American public, however, Rock Hudson was a homosexual. It was a secret he successfully kept hidden from the public for many years.

In 1984, Rock Hudson discovered that he had contracted the AIDS disease, but it was not until the following year that he publicly acknowledged the fact from a Paris hospital where he was receiving treatment. After the news broke about Hudson, it brought international attention to AIDS and -- even though Hudson was gay -- helped the public to see the disease as a real and pressing problem.

The first AIDS cases were not reported until 1981. The earliest people known to have died from the disease were gay men, who had to endure a great deal of discrimination, humiliation and hostility. In spite of the fact that health care officials and scientists were asking that the government address the new disease with research funding, President Ronald Reagan was accused of ignoring their pleas for assistance. As a famous actor himself, though, Reagan was a good friend of Rock Hudson and the actor's death is believed to have changed Reagan's opinion on the desease.

36 Million People Have Died from AIDS Since 1981

Although Reagan did not publicly address the AIDS problem until a speech in 1987, he did eventually come around, and many believe this sea change in opinion was largely a result of Rock Hudson's loss. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 36 million individuals have died as a result of the AIDS disease since the first reported case in 1981.