In the mid-1980s, Bull rider and electrician Ron Woodroof is a hard-living redneck who spends his life drinking, doing drugs, swearing and sleeping around. He is very rough around the edges, and he is deeply prejudiced against gay people. When he is injured on the job and is told at the hospital that he has AIDS and only has a month to live, his first reaction is vitriol. Soon, though, he becomes determined to extend his life by whatever means he can. He learns of an experimental drug called AZT, and when the hospital refuses to give it to him, he decides to secure it for himself by traveling to Mexico with the help of his new transsexual friend Rayon, who will challenge his prejudices.