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Here’s What Betty White Had to Say About How Golden Girls Tackled AIDS

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Part of the enduring appeal of Golden Girls is the way that a show that centered around senior citizens found a way to talk about contemporary issues. Perhaps nothing illustrates this as well as when the show talked about the AIDS epidemic in a historic episode titled “72 Hours” that originally aired in 1990.

Following Golden Girls‘ Hulu debut on Monday, writer Jim Colucci shared an excerpt of his book Golden Girls Forever on Vulture, focusing on how the show opened up conversations about HIV and AIDS.

The episode centered on Betty White’s character, the delightfully spacey Rose, after she learns that the blood transfusion she recently received may have been exposed to blood containing HIV antibodies; after taking an AIDS test, Rose must wait an agonizing 72 hours for the test results. The message behind the episode was clear — the AIDS epidemic had the potential to affect everyone, not just the LGBT community.

One of the most poignant parts of the excerpt is when Betty White reveals that centering the episode around Rose was a bold choice.

“Not only were people understandably afraid of AIDS, but a lot of people wouldn’t even admit it existed,” she said. “So this was a daring episode to do, and the writers went straight for it. It’s interesting that they picked Rose for that situation. Blanche was such a busy lady, but if it had been her story it would have taken on a whole other color. But with Rose being Miss Not-Always-With-It, it came as a real surprise.”

Read the full excerpt here.

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com