FARGO — Rock Hudson was one of the biggest movie stars of the 1950s and '60s, but his greatest impact might have come from his demise.

The Hollywood heartthrob died on this date in 1985 just months after being diagnosed with AIDS. He was the first big star to disclose that he had the disease that was killing thousands of gay men around the world.

Hudson was born Roy Harold Scherer in Illinois in 1925. After coming to Hollywood, he achieved almost instant stardom because of his combination of leading man good looks and boy next door personality. He appeared in more than 70 films and TV shows and was nominated for an Academy Award.

But over his long career, he lived in fear of being outed by the media. While many show business insiders knew about Hudson's sexuality, the general public did not.

He was diagnosed with HIV in the summer of 1984. One year later, while appearing with his good friend and former co-star Doris Day on her cable show, "Doris Day Best Friends," Hudson looked gaunt and sick. A short time later, he admitted he had AIDS. He died at his Beverly Hills home just three months later on Oct. 2, 1985.

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President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan posing with Rock Hudson on May 14, 1984, at White House State Dinner for President De La Madrid of Mexico. Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons / Special to The Forum
President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan posing with Rock Hudson on May 14, 1984, at White House State Dinner for President De La Madrid of Mexico. Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons / Special to The Forum

In the final days of his life and in his death, Hudson is credited with raising awareness about the epidemic. Prior to 1985, President Ronald Reagan had never spoken of the AIDS crisis. After hearing about his Hollywood pal's diagnosis, Reagan mentioned it for the first time in September 1985. Following Hudson's death, Congress allocated more than $220 million dollars to research, and donations to AIDS charities doubled from the year before.

By the end of 1985, more than 12,000 people worldwide had died of AIDS and another 15,000 people were living with it. In the years to follow as science began to discover more treatments, HIV and AIDS no longer were the automatic death sentence they used to be. In March of this year, a second person is said to have been cured.

For his contributions to the motion picture industry, Hudson was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.