Tom RostonIndependent journalist Tom Roston checks in and writes about the world of documentaries in his column, Doc Soup.

You can follow Tom on Twitter @DocSoupMan.

Documenting AIDS

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Still image from the documentary Silverlake Life: The View From Here (POV, 1993)

Still image from the documentary Silverlake Life: The View From Here (POV, 1993)

What’s happened with the fight against AIDS?

I ask that question as a follow-up to a recent post I wrote about the ten documentaries I am most looking forward to in 2012. One of them is Act-Up!, the story of the galvanizing activists who fought to raise awareness about AIDS. In honor of all those who have had to deal with the epidemic in one way or the other, I want to give props to some documentaries about AIDS. But, first, let’s take a quick look at answering my initial question (all numbers are culled from The New York Times).

There are 34 million people currently infected with the virus in the world, and that includes 1.2 million Americans (240,000 of whom are unaware). Recently, President Obama announced he wanted to set up programs to provide drug therapy to six million infected people by the end of 2013, which is up from about four million. What’s most troubling is that the epidemic has reached a plateau internationally, with 2.7 million new people being infected each year for the past five years. Asia and Eastern Europe are two of the regions where the numbers are increasing most.

For those who want to learn more about AIDS through documentaries, I’ve come up with a few places where you can start. First, I’d recommend FRONTLINE’s The Age of Aids, a comprehensive series from 2006, about the history and politics of AIDS which you can watch online. And for a more personal look, there’s 1993’s Silverlake Life: The View from Here, a video diary which aired on POV about living with AIDS.

And then thanks to Lee Mills at Screen Junkies, there’s an intriguing list of “the five best AIDS documentaries,” which includes The Lazarus Effect, The Origin of AIDS, The Other City, AIDS Inc., and House of Numbers: Anatomy of an Epidemic. SnagFilms also has a selection of mostly international AIDS docs, many of which were shot in Africa, that also can be viewed online for free.

That should get us started, if you want to use documentaries as a guide, on answering the question about what’s happened to the epidemic. Still, I look forward to Act-Up!, which, as it turns out, won’t be the first film about the pioneering activists. Fight Back, Fight AIDS: 15 Years of ACT UP, by director James Wentzy, came out in 2002.

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Tom Roston
Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He comes to us as a ten-year veteran of Premiere magazine, where he was a Senior Editor, and where he wrote the column, Notes from the Dream Factory. Tom was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom has also written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, GQ, New York, Elle and other publications. Tom's favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi - Godfrey Reggio 2. Hoop Dreams - Steve James 3. The Up series - Michael Apted 4. Crumb - Terry Zwigoff 5. Capturing the Friedmans - Andrew Jarecki
  • cfs boston

    The medical establishment will have you believe that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) is some sort of ‘mysterious illness,’ but it’s no mystery to me; CFS/ME leads to HIV-Negative AIDS, idiopathic CD lympocytopena (ICL), a clinical diagnosis that I possess.

    How can the AIDS establishment continue with a stale “it’s caused by HIV” theory when there are ICL cases cited in medical journals dating back to 1992? While millions of ailing immunodeficient CFS/ME patients get belittled and neglected, perfectly healthy HIV+ people are allocated billions of dollars in taxpayer money.

    It’s so easy to see that the medical establishment simply has these paradigms (CFS, HIV) inverted. AIDS patients are simply more CFS patients, who also happen to harbor a seemingly harmless virus, HIV. AIDS patients are just the tip of the CFS iceberg, and it’s well-documented that HIV is not the cause of CFS/ME.

    In the U.S. last year, the NIH spent $3.1 billion researching perfectly healthy HIV+ people. Sick, ailing immunodeficienct (some of us dying) CFS/ME patients received a meager $6 million. How can it make any sense to anyone?

    How else do you explain that there is no CFS/ME epidemic in the HIV+ population? CFS/ME does not discriminate. The answer is that there is; any otherwise perfectly healthy HIV+ person that is: 1) symptomatic, 2) is better on ARV’s, or 3) is severely immunosuppressed (AIDS)…

    …is yet another CFS patient.

    Simply rename CFS, ME, and AIDS all to be “low natural killer cell disease” and everyone would very clearly see that:

    CFS + ME + AIDS = low NK cell disease = one catastrophic epidemic (not caused by HIV)

    Now that the ‘mystery’ has been solved, could we please stop wasting time and re-allocate all the HIV funding into CFS/AIDS research?

    My government sold-out global public health for the sake of profit ~ industry, oil acquisition, and Orwellian greed.  If I weren’t only 25% alive, I often wonder what I would Occupy. 

    I demand a revolution!

    7 Step Plan to resolving our World’s catastrophic public health disaster:

    1. Demand research funding parity for CFS with AIDS.
    2. Suggest that CFS & AIDS be researched together by scientists rather than as separate entities.
    3. Urge the CDC to move their AIDS division under the CFS umbrella so they research all the infections that AIDS and CFS have in common.
    4. Urge that AIDS organizations (like AmfAR) include CFS under their umbrellas so that CFS advocates don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
    5. Demand that the White House, Fauci and the Director of NIH make a public statement that (just from what we know today) in terms of the immune dysfunction and human suffering, CFS is just as serious a public health problem as AIDS.
    6. Request that an annual international joint CFS & AIDS conference be held by the World Health Organization.
    7. Suggest that next December 1st be declared the first “World CFS/AIDS Day.”

    I stopped fighting for myself a long, long time ago.

    I fight for humanity.

    http://www.cfsstraighttalk.blogspot.com

    • Noreen martin

      I agree. AIDS and chronic fatigue are related to each other. I happened to have both and had chronic fatigue decades before AIDS. Chronic fatigue is worse because once one gets it, it will last a lifetime. However, I found 2 things that could keep it along with fibromyalgia at bay and that was antiretrovirals (which I don’t recommend due to the life-threatening side effects) and steroids.

      A year of prescribed steroids stopped the fibromyalgia and fatigue. I do not take any medicines except low dose naltrexone, an immune enchanting drug which is very safe.

  • cfs boston

    The medical establishment will have you believe that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) is some sort of ‘mysterious illness,’ but it’s no mystery to me; CFS/ME leads to HIV-Negative AIDS, idiopathic CD lympocytopena (ICL), a clinical diagnosis that I possess.

    How can the AIDS establishment continue with a stale “it’s caused by HIV” theory when there are ICL cases cited in medical journals dating back to 1992? While millions of ailing immunodeficient CFS/ME patients get belittled and neglected, perfectly healthy HIV+ people are allocated billions of dollars in taxpayer money.

    It’s so easy to see that the medical establishment simply has these paradigms (CFS, HIV) inverted. AIDS patients are simply more CFS patients, who also happen to harbor a seemingly harmless virus, HIV. AIDS patients are just the tip of the CFS iceberg, and it’s well-documented that HIV is not the cause of CFS/ME.

    In the U.S. last year, the NIH spent $3.1 billion researching perfectly healthy HIV+ people. Sick, ailing immunodeficienct (some of us dying) CFS/ME patients received a meager $6 million. How can it make any sense to anyone?

    How else do you explain that there is no CFS/ME epidemic in the HIV+ population? CFS/ME does not discriminate. The answer is that there is; any otherwise perfectly healthy HIV+ person that is: 1) symptomatic, 2) is better on ARV’s, or 3) is severely immunosuppressed (AIDS)…

    …is yet another CFS patient.

    Simply rename CFS, ME, and AIDS all to be “low natural killer cell disease” and everyone would very clearly see that:

    CFS + ME + AIDS = low NK cell disease = one catastrophic epidemic (not caused by HIV)

    Now that the ‘mystery’ has been solved, could we please stop wasting time and re-allocate all the HIV funding into CFS/AIDS research?

    My government sold-out global public health for the sake of profit ~ industry, oil acquisition, and Orwellian greed.  If I weren’t only 25% alive, I often wonder what I would Occupy. 

    I demand a revolution!

    7 Step Plan to resolving our World’s catastrophic public health disaster:

    1. Demand research funding parity for CFS with AIDS.
    2. Suggest that CFS & AIDS be researched together by scientists rather than as separate entities.
    3. Urge the CDC to move their AIDS division under the CFS umbrella so they research all the infections that AIDS and CFS have in common.
    4. Urge that AIDS organizations (like AmfAR) include CFS under their umbrellas so that CFS advocates don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
    5. Demand that the White House, Fauci and the Director of NIH make a public statement that (just from what we know today) in terms of the immune dysfunction and human suffering, CFS is just as serious a public health problem as AIDS.
    6. Request that an annual international joint CFS & AIDS conference be held by the World Health Organization.
    7. Suggest that next December 1st be declared the first “World CFS/AIDS Day.”

    I stopped fighting for myself a long, long time ago.

    I fight for humanity.

    http://www.cfsstraighttalk.blogspot.com

  • Anonymous

    I also made some video interviews during the 7 years I lived in Uganda including this one:

    Is it a culture of obedience that explains this complacency, mass exploitation and toxification of children in Uganda?     
    Are ”experts” sure ”AIDS” is caused by a virus?  Investigating Infanticide – Interview with lab technician                      
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2W95A4p_ItU

  • Staone

    What everyone needs to do is watch HOUSE OF NUMBERS and then have a little quiet think alone.

  • http://tagbasicscienceproject.typepad.com/ Richard Jefferys

    House of Numbers is an AIDS denialism propaganda film masquerading as a documentary, it was funded by Peter Duesberg’s “Rethinking AIDS” organization; Duesberg and several of the other interviewees were at the 2006 board meeting where they decided to provide funding (http://www.tig.org.za/Minutes_RA2006.htm). All these people, along with the filmmakers, then conspired to cover up this relationship in order to pretend to film festival organizers and audiences that the film was “objective.” If you look at the film’s Facebook page, you can see that this confidence trick has successfully conned a number of people with HIV into believing the lies that Duesberg et al promote. The two HIV positive members of the Rethinking AIDS board that were at the 2006 meeting and appeared in the film–Christine Maggiore and Kim Marie Bannon–have both since died of AIDS. 

    • cfs boston

      What you ‘die of’ and what you are ‘ICD-coded as’ are two different things.  Christine and Kim were ICD-coded AIDS, but neither of them died of an acquired immune deficiency syndrome.  The easiest way for me to explain it is this:  AIDS is not a disease.  AIDS is a syndrome.  A syndrome is a syndrome, not a disease.  In Africa, an HIV+ person can die of a TB or malaria (dieases) and the death would be ICD-coded as AIDS (syndrome).  But it wasn’t HIV that caused the death in was a mosquito.  Same situation with Christine and Kim…yes they both dead, but HIV was not the cause. 

  • Bobbie hurston

    Just a Mom who lost her son almost 14 years, who had A.I.D.S. Tim died from Cancer of the liver. Which I will always believe resulted from use of the Famous A.I.D.S. Cocktail of the 90′s. He was not Gay nor a Drug User. Just the unlucky guy had unprotected sex. He is my Hero