Ending Silence, Shame & Stigma: HIV/AIDS in the African American Family
Directed by Kat Cheairs
Dark Hollow Films
Reviewed by V. Anderson
Ending Silence, Shame & Stigma: HIV/AIDS in the African American Family looks back to the years before 1982, when AIDS was called GRID (“Gay-related infectious [more commonly, “immunodeficiency] disease” as identified by an interviewee) because it was then believed to be a “gay white male issue,” and forward to the potential for open, non-judgmental dialogue within African-American communities that have been historically reluctant to discuss the disease, and progressive churches whose practices diverge from intolerant, conservative, religious institutions.
Through a series of interviews with African Americans of different generations, interspersed with HIV statistics specific to the high rates of infection among African Americans (over half of about 1 million people infected in the U.S.), the documentary casts a wide net. The documentary addresses those for whom “condom negotiation” is an issue, those who think that because of their socioeconomic class (not race) the disease is not an issue for them, and those who think that there is only need to worry if they are dating men who are on the down-low or are intravenous drug users. It seeks to dispel misinformation and stereotypes about the disease and to eventually end the specific type of tragedy exemplified by one man’s description of his cousin’s death: “It was a source of shame. Not just his passing, but his life was a source of shame.”
It is important to learn about and remember what it was like when there was little information or treatment available. In an especially raw moment, a woman reveals how crucial the support of her family became when she learned she was infected. This point is furthered through home video footage and photographs of a little girl, born infected with HIV, whose “mother loved [her] like she would live forever.” The documentary covers a lot of ground, and it could have gone deeper into each story, but it simply achieves what it hopes to. By leaving viewers with several starting points for discussion, it brings us closer to the end of “silence, shame & stigma.”
Link to more information here.
V. Anderson holds an MFA in Film from New York University. She has worked in India, the Caribbean, and the U.S., and is currently based in New York City.