The Trauma on the Uninfected

Louis has an insight into AIDS that no other character in Angels in America can grasp; he lives through the symptoms and trauma of AIDS without directly being sick, as he sees the way his boyfriend declines from the illness. Louis is a representation of the trauma and fear that uninfected gay men lived through during the AIDS epidemic.  

After Louis and Prior fight about calling an ambulance as Prior is having explosive diarrhea, Louis seeks out a hookup with a stranger in a park. This is one of the first times that Prior’s horrific symptoms are shown on screen, and Louis is stressed and scared by them, screaming at Prior and breaking down when Prior faints. During this encounter, the condom breaks: “MAN: I think it must’ve… It broke, or slipped off, you didn’t put it on right, or—You want me to keep going? / Pull out? Should I– / LOUIS: Keep going. / Infect me. / I don’t care. / I don’t care” (Kushner, 60). Louis, clearly in a mindset of distress, implies he wants the stranger to have sex with him without a condom. 

Louis risks getting AIDS when he cheats on Prior. Though his mind is not fully clear, his words reveal what he thinks about AIDS, especially in relation to Prior. He does not care if he gets AIDS, as he knows that if he does, at least he will die with Prior. Louis is terrified of the knowledge that he will lose his boyfriend soon, and this hookup pushes to the point of being a sort of self-harm. He would rather suffer with Prior than suffer without him. 

Louis is the gay men mourning for their lost brothers, not knowing how to cope with the trauma and fear of the AIDS epidemic. Many of these men did not have a healthy, safe, or secure outlet, instead hiding internally or lashing out in hope to get some sense of comfort. Many, like Louis, may have turned to unsafe sex when they were distressed. They would rather have had their names on a quilt than be haunted by the deaths of their friends, families, and lovers.