What Disease Did Jenny Have In ‘Forrest Gump’?

Forrest Gump is a heartwarming tale that sends Tom Hanks on a journey through history. Forrest (Hanks)’s 75 IQ doesn’t stop him. In fact, he sort of lucks into a college football career, military service in the Vietnam War, a ping pong career, and a shrimping empire. Forrest Gump is bittersweet, too, and doesn’t end well for every character.

[Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers for the movie Forrest Gump.]

Jenny and Forrest Gump sit in the dirt
Robin Wright and Tom Hanks | Paramount Pictures

The love of Forrest’s life is Jenny (Robin Wright). Jenny is on a different path for much of the movie, but ultimately they have a child together. Jenny spends the end of her life as Forrest’s wife. Her death also incorporates a significant part of American history.

What did Jenny die of in ‘Forrest Gump’?

Forrest has been telling his whole life story as he waits for a bus on a park bench. He tells the story of meeting her on the school bus, through their interactions at college and anti-war rallies and their one intimate night together. When he sees her again, she reveals they have a son together. 

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Jenny also reveals she is sick. She says the doctors don’t know what it is, but the audience is meant to infer she has AIDS. This reunion takes place in 1981 according to a sign on a passing bus. In the early days of the epidemic, there was no official name for it. The CDC would officially call it AIDS in 1982, according to History, which is the same year Jenny died according to her gravestone. 

How did Jenny get AIDS?

The movie Forrest Gump never makes an overt connection between Jenny’s disease and its cause. HIV and AIDS can be spread by unprotected sex and sharing needles. Jenny does both in the movie. 

While Forrest goes to Vietnam and starts his shrimp business, Jenny joins the hippie movement. She appears with different boyfriends throughout the film, although Forrest Gump is PG-13 so her relationships are not explicit. In one scene, Jenny and her partner are in a daze with drug paraphernalia in the room, including a syringe. It is possible they shared that needle. 

‘Forrest Gump’ showed the best and worst of American history 

One of the technological breakthroughs of Forrest Gump was its ability to put Hanks in historical events. Beginning with the assassination attempt on George Wallace, Forrest encountered Presidents from Kennedy to Nixon and celebrities like John Lennon, and acknowledging historical figures who died. 

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Forrest learns about the plight of Vietnam veterans through Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise), whom he saves in battle. Lt. Dan loses his legs and becomes an amputee. The emergence of AIDS in the ’80s was too major a historical development for Forrest Gump to ignore. Sadly, Jenny had to be the character who perished due to AIDS.

Source: History