TV commercials for prescription meds are about as common nowadays as ads for fast food. But for some viewers enjoying holiday movies on the Great American Family channel (GAC TV), encountering ads for HIV meds featuring same-sex couples felt like getting a lump of coal for Christmas. They complained on social media about the HIV ads, and the network apologized.

“Love the movies! But have you removed the very non-family friendly aids drug ad with 2 men kissing,” a viewer asked GAC TV via social media.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have control over local commercials,” the company responded, “and we sincerely apologize.”

Transgender actress Alexandra Billings, pictured above, who has been living with HIV for decades, used the opportunity to discuss HIV stigma and history. As LGBTQ news outlet The Advocate reported, Billings tagged GAC TV and wrote via Instagram:

“Dear @gactv

“I have been living with HIV for over 30 years now. I buried most of my friends in my 20s and I live with an illness that gets more and more difficult to manage and navigate with each passing year.


“The stigma of this disease is alive and well, as long as there are humans who attempt to pass off misinformation, fear or ignorance as normal conversation and acceptable social behavior.”


“I remember when my best friend Ginger died. She was 24 years old and had been sick for a few years. Back in the ’80s, when this first appeared, you got sick and you died. There was no treatment. There was no alternative, and there was no hope. Because funeral homes were terrified to put us in the ground because no one really knew how you got this thing, and because family members ostracized us and because the mainstream of society was working off misinformation there was nowhere to put her dead body. So my friend Gloria and I sewed her up, put her in the back of our Volkswagen and dropped her off at the Cook County emergency room exit in Chicago, Illinois, in the middle of winter.


“I’m not assigning blame. And I’m not trying to suggest this is all of who you are. Your channel professes love, tolerance and family, and I simply don’t see any of those attributes in your response to this viewer.


“I only hope this holiday brings everyone at your channel clarity of heart. And that as you continue to tell stories about love and tolerance, and the American family, that you allow everyone into that divine space…and not just the humans you believe deserve to be there.


“Happy holidays, and may everyone in your family find inclusion and grace and, moreover, be both safe and healthy.”