Discussion on AIDS in Black America
David Ho welcomed a group of community leaders, activists, physicians
and public health professionals to ADARC for a discussion based on ENDGAME: AIDS in Black America, Renata Simone's latest film which premiered on Frontline last July. The panel also included: Vicki Sharp, MD, founder of the Center for Comprehensive Care; Monica Sweeney, MD, MPH, Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of HIV/ AIDS Prevention and Control at the NYC DOHMH, and Nel Davis, a retired California nurse who was featured in the film.
Simone has been ADARC's friend and collaborator for almost 20 years,
since Irene Diamond engaged her to direct a documentary on the HIV/AIDS
epidemic. Most recently, she directed a short film commemorating
ADARC's 20 years. She has devoted most of her career to telling the
story of the epidemic on film, giving voices to its victims and
AIDS was initially described as a white gay male disease, it has always
affected black men, women and children. Today, close to half of all Americans
infected with HIV are black. In ENDGAME, Ms. Simone tells the story of
how, from the earliest days, prejudice, silence and stigma allowed the
virus to spread deep into the black community.
New York City, blacks account for almost half of the 111,000 people
diagnosed with HIV, said Dr. Monica Sweeney. In her opinion, the
epidemic needs to be addressed by a three-legged stool made up of
government, community, and individuals. She reiterated that individual
responsibility cannot be left out of the equation, and that people need
to understand that if they engage in risk behavior, they can get
infected with HIV.
Sharp discussed her work with a population that includes many formerly
incarcerated people. Among her patients, blacks are poorer than
non-blacks. They are less likely to achieve viral suppression, less
likely to be referred to mental health services, and less likely to
remain in treatment. She and Dr. Sweeney both remarked that several
other illnesses that can cause premature death are also more prevalent
in the black community, such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and
renal disease. In Dr. Sharp's opinion, the high rate of incarceration
among blacks plays an important role in the spread of HIV/AIDS, which is
something also reflected in Ms. Simone's film.
makes it clear that the epidemic has reached every corner of the black
community, including celebrities such as Magic Johnson, teenagers who
have lived with HIV since birth, drug users, prisoners, educated gay
men, and even church-going retirees. Nel Davis, a retired nurse, married
a deacon of her church and later found his HIV diagnosis inside a
Bible. Ms. Davis, who was infected by her new husband, knew very little
about the disease and thought life was over when she was diagnosed. Now,
she works educating people about the epidemic, and supporting newly
diagnosed patients. She hopes that the disclosure of her status in Ms.
Simone's film will help fight the stigma and shame associated with the
You can watch ENDGAME
in its entirety and read additional interviews on Frontline's website.
If you would like a copy of Renata Simone's documentary that marked
ADARC's 20th anniversary, please contact Melissa Haber.