Thirty-four years ago today the Afterschool Special Just a Regular Kid: An A.I.D.S. Story premiered.
TITLE: Just a Regular Kid: An A.I.D.S. Story
SHOW: The ABC Afterschool Special
NUMBER: Season 16, Episode 1
AIRDATE: Sep 9, 1987 at 17:00
RUNTIME: 60 minutes
While teenager Kevin Casio attends his first day of junior year in high school, his parents visit his doctor, Dr. Stein. She informs them that after running a series of tests, her office has concluded that Kevin is HIV-positive after mistakenly receiving infected blood from a transfusion. She warns that there is a chance that he will develop AIDS and that his immune system has been weakened. Soon his parents make an effort to keep him in the house, and he notices they are acting suspiciously around him. Kevin’s best friend Paul, meanwhile, notices protests outside the local grade school about Tommy Schroeder, another boy known to have AIDS, and talks to Nicole, vice president of the student senate, about the situation. He urges the senate to take a stance on the AIDS issue and he is invited to sit in on the senate session; Paul hopes to run for the school senate himself.
Mr. and Mrs. Casio debate among themselves over whether or not to tell Kevin that he is HIV-positive. Mrs. Casio is convinced that Dr. Stein is mistaken and that Kevin will be fine, but Mr. Casio believes they should face the possibility of his illness without reservation. Kevin walks in on their argument and they reveal the truth about his condition. They tell Kevin about the particulars of the disease; they are worried about what people at school might do if they discover that he has it, and want to wait for the school board to make a decision about the other boy known to have AIDS before they admit to anything. His mother is still convinced that he will get better. During the school senate hearing, Paul proposes that he and Nicole speak to the parents of Tommy Schroeder; Nicole plans to bring Paul into the senate as their commissioner of student health and welfare. The senate president Brian brings up this prospect to Paul, although he personally feels that Paul is too young for the position.
Tommy’s mother is surrounded by the press outside of school, and she yells at them to leave her alone. Kevin watches as the protestors surrounding the school as they voice their belief that the other schoolchildren are in danger from the AIDS virus, urging the school board to come to a decision. The school principal is on hand and makes his own remarks. Later, Paul and Kevin talk about the situation; Paul believes that Tommy is at risk of infecting others and that he shouldn’t be allowed in school, whereas Kevin is more concerned about Tommy’s well-being and notes that Kevin is somewhat misinformed about the means by which AIDS infects its victims. Paul believes that Kevin is jealous of his new position on the student senate, and this belief strains their friendship. The school board votes to allow Tommy back into school, much to Paul’s outrage. The school senate becomes paranoid about what they feel could be an uncontrollable outbreak of AIDS, and vow to do everything they can to keep it out of their school.
That night, Kevin has a coughing fit and starts hyperventilating. He is hospitalized for pneumonia and later Paul visits him there. He reveals to Paul that he has AIDS, and makes it clear that he will no longer be keeping it a secret. Paul is outraged at this revelation and leaves, refusing to help Kevin. Later, Paul visits Kevin at his house and asks him not to tell the principal that he has AIDS, hoping to stave off the ire of their classmates for a time. Kevin believes that he is simply trying to further his position in the student senate, but Paul insists he is only trying to help him. Kevin says that he is obligated to inform the school of his condition in case a medical emergency arises, and resents Paul for treating him like a “criminal.” At a senate meeting, just after Paul informs the school of his condition, the other members immediately turn on Kevin, berating him for concealing his knowledge of Paul’s illness from them. Brian calls for an immediate vote on whether or not to allow Paul back in school, insisting that the result be unanimous. Everyone except Kevin votes to bar Paul, and Kevin reluctantly adds his vote to theirs.
Kevin’s return to school is marked by obvious fear and suspicion from his classmates. He is forced out of the school cafeteria when the students surround him, and Brian calls for an emergency senate session the next day, intending to somehow circumvent the school board’s decision and get Kevin removed from school. That night, Kevin talks to his father about the incident, and expresses fears about his own mortality. He feels as though he is somehow letting his parents down, and his father does his best to comfort him. Paul talks to his mother, believing that people are avoiding her because of him, although she denies this. He tries to get her to admit to the truth of the situation and give him support; she admits that she was trying to make things easier by acting as if nothing was wrong and they embrace. Later, Paul visits Mrs. Casio, and she advises him not to let his fears get the better of his judgment and his friendship during the emergency senate session.
Paul decides to speak to Dr. Stein to find out more about AIDS, and she talks about the number of people infected and the methods by which it is spread. He admits that he visited her because of the rampant fear and misinformation spreading amongst his peers. The next morning, a collection of students attempt to physically block Kevin’s entrance to the school, and Paul decides to stand up for Kevin, berating the students for their ignorance and behavior. Paul is called up to make a speech in front of the school senate and an assembled audience. He admits that his initial statements about the AIDS situation were wrong, and shares what he has learned about the virus and how they should conduct themselves to avoid getting it and educate themselves about it. After school, Paul goes looking for Kevin and finds him at his fishing spot at the lake. Paul indicates that he is no longer afraid of Kevin, and they resume their friendship.