AIDS has devastated America since it first began appearing in the early 1980s. When it first became known, it was thought to be a disease only of homosexual males. Since that time though, knowledge of the disease and how to treat it has broadened. Despite that knowledge, AIDS continues to ravage one group more than any other. And it isn’t the gay community. As presented by PBS’ Frontline, the community that is still being ravaged by the AIDS epidemic is the African American community.
In its new special, Frontline examines in an unbiased manner, the spread of AIDS in the black community. It examines the factors that have led to the spread of the disease and the stigma attached to those who have contracted it, both straight and homosexual. The stories told firsthand by those who contracted the disease are both powerful and moving. And learning how widespread the disease is in the Black community is just as eye opening. Through the program’s near two-hour run time, there is a message of hope that it can at least be reduced and slowed if not wiped out.
The stories told firsthand by those who contracted the AIDS virus come from members of every walk of the African American community. On one hand, there is Nel. Nel is sixty-three years old and a grandmother. Nel married a deacon in her church who it turned out had lied to her about being HIV positive. Even upon being confronted by her, he still lied about it. Another story is that of a young woman who ended up contracting the disease from a man after having unprotected sex with a man she thought was Mr. Right. And in another, audiences are presented the case of Jovante. Jovante is a football player who ended up contracting the disease from his partner. It shows the far reaching impact of the disease and the personal emotion felt by each victim.
The feeling that each victim experiences illustrate the stigma still attached to the disease even three decades after it first appeared. That stigma crossed lines of straight and gay. Even more interesting is that the stigma itself was more self-imposed than having been placed on them by those around the subjects interviewed. That is one of the most interesting aspects of this documentary. That victims regardless of straight or gay would self-impose the stigma is a powerful statement. Some claimed that they didn’t talk about it because they believe the stigma. But the vibe of the general public was not one of subjugation, but of acceptance. That comparison is subtle. But it’s more than enough to generate lots of discussions.
Also sure to create is a segment of the program highlighting former President George W. Bush’s pledge to send aid to Africa to help fight the AIDS epidemic there, too. It provides the clip from Bush’s State of The Union address in 2003 in which he publicly pledged millions in aid to fight the disease throughout Africa’s nations. Whether political or otherwise, this is a moment that is certain to lead to discussions, too. The inclusion of interviews with NBA Magic Johnson will lead to just as many discussions. It’s interesting the view that some developed on AIDS after seeing that Johnson recovered. It actually created a hope. And that sense of hope is what viewers are left with by the program’s end.
While there is still work to be done in terms of education and other aspects, there is hope that cases of AIDS can be vastly reduced if not wiped out with proper education among America’s Black communities. The education must be spread to African Americans of all ages. From education about abstinence and contraception to general knowledge about AIDS, it can combine to finally lead to the endgame in question for Aids in Black America.
Endgame: Aids in Black America is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct via PBS’ online store, http://www.shoppbs.org.
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