Monday, December 14, 2009
December 1st is World AIDS Day. Throughout the month of December, Showtime is airing a a one hour documentary, Love in a Time of HIV. The directors Beth Jones and Nicky Lankester set out of make a documentary showing what it's like to live with HIV today. In an interview, Beth Jones commented "You remember from the press all the doom-and-gloom stories about having HIV, and the idea actually now is that it’s not about how do I live or die but it’s about how do I go about living my life, how do I go about getting married and having children?"
The documentary tells three different stories. The first is about Susan and Christina Rodriguez, a mother and daughter living in New York with HIV. Teenage Christina (pictured above) was born with HIV and diagnosed at age 3. She is now in high school and looking forward to going to college. Some of the issues she brings up are dating, wanting to have children, dealing with the perceptions of her peers. Christina's mother, Susan, runs a non-for-profit organization, SMART University, teaching women with HIV how to better take care of themselves.
The second story is about 25 year old South African Idols finalist, Tender Mavundla. Tender was voted off of Idols two weeks after she revealed her HIV status to the country. The media also picked up the story of the death of her premature infant daughter (a complication of Tender's illness). Tender lives in a community with a 40% HIV infection rate. She worries about her 17 year old sister (that she will follow in the footsteps of Tender and Tender's older sister, who is also HIV positive). She worries that there won't be a next generation in her community as those who are HIV positive are not having children or children are born with HIV. She still dreams of being a singer and adopting a baby. Below is a clip from Tender's story.
The last story is about a British couple, Andrew and Michelle. Their story centers around their attempt to safely have a child. Andrew is HIV positive and Michelle is not. Andrew talks about his frustration with having to turn to the medical community for something that he could otherwise (if not HIV positive) have done naturally. One of the reasons he wants to have a child to be able to leave something of himself behind.
What I found very interesting about this documentary is that it's not really about illness. It's about people trying to do the things that everyone else does: fall in love, go college, get married, have a family, fulfill a life long career dream. None of those featured look or act ill. The documentary really looked at HIV in a different way. As Andrew pointed out, as HIV moved from more of an acute to more of a chronic type illness, it has become "a forgotten illness". This film reminds us that there are still many out there living with HIV. They're not really thinking about dying. They're just trying to live normal lives.